One day, Aunt Lydia unexpectedly arrived at the house while Paula was out to visit Agnes. Aunt Lydia told her about Becka’s enrollment as a Supplicant. She also implied that if Agnes herself had received a calling to become an Aunt, she might wish to consult her former teacher, Aunt Estée, about what to do.
Worried that Paula might drug her and lock her up, Agnes made a plan to contact Aunt Estée. She briefly visited the Aunt in charge of making her wedding dress to discuss design changes, then she asked her Guardian driver to take her to her old school. When he hesitated, she implied that her marriage to Commander Judd would make her more powerful than Paula and that she would later reward him for his help. He relented and chauffeured her to the school, where Agnes found Aunt Estée and expressed her desperation.
Aunt Estée agreed to intervene on Agnes’s behalf and brought her to a room in Ardua Hall, where she saw a book for the first time. As she flipped through its pages, Becka entered the room and they shared a joyful reunion. Becka explained that her new name was Aunt Immortelle, and she described what Agnes would have to do to get through the mandatory six-month trial before she could enroll as a Supplicant.
Paula came to Ardua Hall to order Agnes to return home. During their meeting, Agnes followed Becka’s advice and acted crazed. Aunt Lydia intervened and whispered something that caused Paula to relent. Afterward, Agnes passed her entrance interviews with the founding Aunts and received an official invitation to stay at Ardua Hall.
Agnes’s two nightmare visions of sex demonstrate that, like Becka, she saw marriage as inevitably leading to powerlessness and sexual violence. In the first of her two visions, Agnes imagined her body cold and motionless as each of her three potential husbands crawled on top of her. Her sense of immobility suggests the imminent threat of rape. To make matters more disturbing, Agnes adds that in addition to being motionless, she imagined herself as dead. In this sense, Agnes equates the performance of her sexual duties as a Wife not just with sexual violence but with her own spiritual or physical death. She sees marriage as a literal death of her self. Agnes’s second vision came after she met her future husband, Commander Judd, for the first time. In this vision, Commander Judd transformed into a horrific larval creature with a leech-like mouth that threatened to suck her blood or drain her soul. This vision mirrors the first in that it forecasts marriage as a nightmarish union that will sap Agnes of everything that keeps her alive.
Following Becka’s attempt to take her own life at the end of Part X, suicide becomes a significant motif in The Testaments, particularly in this section of the novel. Like Becka, Agnes found it difficult to imagine what to do in the face of her inevitable marriage to a man who repulsed and threatened her. In her view, marriage would result in spiritual death, and if she tried to run away the Eyes would track her down, execute her, and string her corpse up on the Wall as a cautionary example to other women. Given the options, suicide appeared the most reasonable way to escape a far more terrible death. Agnes and Becka are not alone in their thinking. Suicidal ideation is extremely common amongst the women of Gilead. Shunammite, for instance, tells a gruesome story about a Handmaid who swallowed drain cleaner to escape her fate. Agnes also heard her Marthas lecture on the immorality of suicide, a lecture they would only feel the need to deliver if they suspected Agnes of pursing that escape route. The fact that suicide is a rampant problem in Gilead shows how trapped many people—especially women—really feel.