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Aunt Lydia records the fallout from Agnes and Daisy’s escape. Rumors have spread in Ardua Hall that Aunt Vidala’s stroke resulted from an attack. Speculation has also arisen about the authenticity of Daisy’s elopement note. Unlike the other major figures in Gilead’s government, Commander Judd knew that Daisy was really Baby Nicole, and he summoned Aunt Lydia to his office in a fit of anxiety. Aunt Lydia secretly enjoyed his discomfort and made up excuses to buy more time. As she explains: “One is always buying something.”
Meanwhile, the Works Department, which had investigated the water shortage in one of the dormitories, found Becka drowned in the rooftop water cistern. Other Aunts immediately condemned Becka, and many said they’d always thought the young woman was a fraud. Saddened by the loss, Aunt Lydia spoke at her funeral, hypothesizing that Becka must have slipped or fainted while trying to fix the faulty cistern.
Tensions continued to grow at Ardua Hall with new speculations about the two Pearl Girls who had reportedly left early that morning. Later, news came that Agnes and Daisy had been spotted at a bus station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Commander Judd reasoned that Daisy was a plant who had infiltrated Gilead under false pretenses, and he ordered a search operation. Aunt Lydia fake an apology to him for failing to see Daisy for who she really was. He warned that both their reputations—and their lives—were at stake. Aunt Lydia had a flashback to the moment in the stadium when she raised her gun and shot another woman. She asks herself, “A bullet, or no bullet?” She confirms, “A bullet.”
Aunt Lydia visited Aunt Vidala. Aunt Elizabeth was there on duty and said that Aunt Vidala hadn’t spoken yet. Aunt Lydia dismissed Aunt Elizabeth, and once her colleague left, she spoke loudly in the patient’s ear, ordering her to wake up. Aunt Vidala responded instantly, telling Aunt Lydia she would hang for what she’d done.
Just as Aunt Lydia reached into her pocket to retrieve the vial of morphine, Aunt Elizabeth reentered the room to fetch her forgotten knitting. Aunt Lydia said Aunt Vidala had just spoken and that she had accused Aunt Elizabeth of hitting her and of being in league with Mayday. Frightened, Aunt Elizabeth denied the accusation. Aunt Lydia comforted Aunt Elizabeth then got up to leave. On her way out, she implied that Aunt Elizabeth should smother Aunt Vidala with a pillow, making her death look like an asthmatic attack and protecting herself from Vidala’s accusations. Aunt Lydia felt inwardly pleased to be taking care of both colleagues at once.
Agnes and Daisy successfully rowed themselves to shore, where Ada and Garth were waiting for them. Exhausted from fever and intense effort, Daisy collapsed. A helicopter airlifted them to a medical center for refugees, where Daisy received life-saving antibiotics.
When Daisy woke up, Ada congratulated her on the success of her mission and said she was all over the news. The document cache concealed in her tattoo had revealed a huge number of explosive crimes that Canadian media had already started releasing to the world. Daisy wondered where Becka was and said that she had heard her voice on the beach. Daisy fell asleep again, and when she woke up, Agnes told her their mother was there. The three women embraced.
Aunt Lydia’s comment that a person “is always buying something” implies that social exchange operates in much the same way that economic exchange operates. In context, the meaning of her comment is relatively simple and straightforward. That is, Aunt Lydia knew that Agnes and Daisy needed as much time as possible in order to safely escape to Canada. For this reason, she needed to “buy” time from Commander Judd. Of course, no exchange of money occurs, so she’s not literally buying time. Instead of financial capital, Aunt Lydia makes her metaphorical purchase with social capital, which refers to a form of wealth, or power, that arises from interpersonal relationships that have developed a shared sense of identity and values. In this sense, social capital’s main form of currency is trust. Aunt Lydia has spent years developing her social capital in Gilead, manipulating others into believing that she shares their values. More than anyone else in Gilead, she has earned Commander Judd’s trust. However, just as financial markets experience volatility, so too do social markets. Despite successfully buying time from the Commander, Aunt Lydia knows that her purchase will likely condemn both of them to death as Gilead collapses.
The scene in the recovery ward demonstrates Aunt Lydia’s improvisational thinking process, which has kept her alive all these years. When she first entered the room, she intended to kill Aunt Vidala using the morphine she’d stolen from the hospital the last time she visited. However, when Aunt Elizabeth unexpectedly came back into the room, Aunt Lydia improvised. She quickly fashioned a lie designed to make Aunt Elizabeth see Aunt Vidala as a delusional and dangerous enemy. Leveraging this lie, she tried to manipulate Aunt Elizabeth into suffocating Aunt Vidala with a pillow. What Aunt Elizabeth didn’t realize is that Aunt Lydia would film the murder and use the footage to condemn Aunt Elizabeth to death as well. Importantly, Aunt Lydia did not plan this particular series of manipulations but came up with it on the fly. This example shows once again that Aunt Lydia’s revolutionary activities have not proceeded according to a single, well-crafted plan. Instead, she has consistently practiced the art of keeping her options open, collecting evidence and ideas for when opportunity presents itself. Whereas the establishment of Gilead required a meticulously plotted effort led by men, a single woman’s flexible thinking will take the regime down.
Part XXVI brings Agnes and Daisy’s story to a hopeful conclusion with three distinct sources of optimism. The first relates to the successful completion of their mission. They persisted against all odds, including Daisy’s infection as well as Gilead’s systematic, state-fueled repression. The second source of optimism relates to the impact their mission seems likely to make. Even before Daisy had fully recovered from her infection, Canadian news programs had already begun to release some of the documents Agnes and Daisy had smuggled in. The revelations promised to spark international outrage and explosive conflict among Gilead’s elite, all of which would lead the Republic to collapse. The third and final source of optimism relates to the joyful reunion between Agnes, Daisy, and their birth mother. Although in Part XXIV, Daisy had cautioned her sister against assuming their relationship with their mother would necessarily be a good one, the novel concludes with the three women embracing, finally reunited outside of the patriarchal regime that had tried to separate them forever. Each of these women has made a significant contribution to female liberation, and their final gesture of love and solidarity expresses a revolutionary power.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Testaments!