The Handmaid’s Tale

by: Margaret Atwood

Complacency

Quotes Complacency
Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now. We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Nothing changes instantly: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.

Offred reflects on a conversation she had with Moira in college. She finds it hard to believe that they were once so casual and carefree in a way that life in Gilead doesn’t allow. Here, she admits that they weren’t unaware of the changes happening around them. Like everyone, they preferred to pretend the changes weren’t happening and live their lives as usual. The willing ignorance eventually led to the rise of Gilead, which shows how dangerous ignoring a situation can be.

I didn’t go on any of the marches. Luke said it would be futile and I had to think about them, my family, him and her.

Offred recalls that when she was fired from her job because women were no longer allowed to work, there were some small protest marches she didn’t join. She and her husband resigned themselves to the changes happening in their world. As they felt powerless to resist the new regime, they tried to focus on their family instead. However, because not enough people tried to fight back, their family ended up being torn apart anyway.

I said, I have made a life for myself, here, of a sort. That must have been what the settlers’ wives thought, and women who survived wars, if they had a man. Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.

Offred considers Ofglen’s offer to help her escape Gilead, and she rationalizes her desire to stay. Now that she has begun seeing Nick secretly, she feels she has something more to live for compared with the years she went without love or affection. Although her situation has improved a bit, her willingness to remain essentially a prisoner in Gilead shows how little it takes to make her ignore the atrocities taking place in her world.