Summary: Part XII: Carpitz

Daisy’s account picks up just after Elijah told her about her real identity as Baby Nicole. Ada explained how they had worked hard to keep her identity safe. Even so, Ada worried that Gileadean spies may have infiltrated Mayday’s ranks, meaning they had to take extra precautions.

Ada moved Daisy into another room in the same building. There she met Garth, who drove them to a new location. In the back of the van, Daisy asked Ada how she’d been smuggled out of Gilead. Ada explained that her mother had entrusted Daisy to her, and that she had traveled through woods and mountains with Daisy in a backpack until they arrived in Canada. Daisy asked where her parents were, and Ada said their whereabouts were top secret.

The van arrived at a wholesale carpet outlet with a secret hideout area in the back. The news ran a story about Aunt Adrianna, the Pearl Girls missionary found dead in a condo. The police had ruled out suicide and now suspected foul play. Worried that Gileadean agents could attack soon, Daisy’s caretakers brainstormed about where to move her. Elijah explained one possible plan. Mayday used to have a valuable source within Gilead who had corresponded with Neil via microdot. Before communications got cut off, their Gileadean source had promised to deliver a big document cache with seriously damaging information about Gilead’s elite. In the event that The Clothes Hound was compromised, the source had proposed a fallback plan in which Mayday would send Baby Nicole into Gilead with Pearl Girls, disguised as a fresh convert.

Daisy expressed reservations but did not refuse the mission, and Garth taught her self-defense in preparation. Ada taught Daisy how to get along in Gilead’s social environment. Daisy also received a forearm tattoo that, according to specifications dictated by the Gileadean source, featured the words “LOVE” and “GOD” arranged in a cross with both words sharing the “O.”

Analysis: Parts XI–XII

Despite Commander Judd’s pledge that her rifle had contained a blank, Aunt Lydia knows she’s guilty of murder. When Aunt Lydia participated in one of the stadium executions, she and the other executioners didn’t know whether their rifle contained a real bullet or a blank. The reader knows this in part because this is what happened in the dream Aunt Lydia recounts at the beginning of Part XI and because when Commander Judd eventually apologized to Aunt Lydia for putting her through the traumatizing experience, he promised her that her rifle had contained a blank. Whether or not Commander Judd spoke the truth, Aunt Lydia recognizes that her guilt derives not from actually killing another human being but from her intention to do so. Traditionally, armies and militias have used the firing squad as a form of execution meant to exonerate the executioners from guilt. When many executioners shoot at a single victim, they cannot know whose bullet actually took that victim’s life and hence needn’t feel personally responsible. But Aunt Lydia understands that the executioners all share a collective guilt based solely on their involvement with the murders, and because of this knowledge, she cannot be manipulated by Commander Judd, who tries to inspire more loyalty in her by claiming to have spared her from firing an actual bullet.

As Aunt Lydia provides more details about her past, a clearer understanding of the ambivalence that has defined her life and continues to haunt her develops. The word “ambivalence” refers to a state of mixed feelings or contrary ideas that cannot be easily resolved. In Aunt Lydia’s case, the ambivalence that defines her life stems from the fact that she has done terrible things but with good intentions and in the midst of terrible oppression. As the dream that opens this part of the manuscript suggests, Aunt Lydia remains haunted by her participation in the stadium execution. Yet despite knowing how reprehensible her actions were, she finds little point in expressing regret. Instead, she focuses on the work she did with the other founding Aunts. If Aunt Lydia continues to take pride in this work, it’s partly because it made her feel powerful. But her pride also stems from knowing that her power has enabled her to work against Gilead’s interests in the long term. Aunt Lydia finds it impossible to judge whether or not her actions are defensible, and she remains haunted by the fact that her good intentions may not truly exonerate her.