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The Handmaid's Tale Quotes

26 of the best book quotes from The Handmaid's Tale
  1. #1
    “I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping.”
  2. #2
    “I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off.”
  3. #3
    “He was not a monster, to her. Probably he had some endearing trait: he whistled, off key, in the shower, he had a yen for truffles, he called his dog Liebchen and made it sit up for little pieces of raw steak. How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation.”
  4. #4
    “When we think of the past it’s the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.”
  5. #5
    “The Commander’s Wife directs, pointing with her stick. Many of the Wives have such gardens, it’s something for them to order and maintain and care for.
    “I once had a garden. I can remember the smell of the turned earth, the plump shapes of bulbs held in the hands, fullness, the dry rustle of seeds through the fingers.”
  6. #6
    “What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, criscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.”
  7. #7
    “We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”
  8. #8
    “It’s not the husbands you have to watch out for, said Aunt Lydia, it’s the Wives. You should always try to imagine what they must be feeling. Of course they will resent you. It is only natural. Try to feel for them.”
  9. #9
    “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”
  10. #10
    “Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”
  11. #11
    “Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.”
  12. #12
    “But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.”
  13. #13
    “We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names from bed to bed:
    “Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.”
  14. #14
    “I am not your justification for existence.”
  15. #15
    “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. ”
  16. #16
    “Aunt Lydia said it was best not to speak unless they asked you a direct question. Try to think of it from their point of view she said, her hands clasped and wrung together, her nervous pleading smile. It isn’t easy for them.”
  17. #17
    “But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.”
  18. #18
    “Live in the present, make the most of it, it’s all you’ve got.”
  19. #19
    “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
    “We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
  20. #20
    “You can’t help what you feel, but you can help how you behave.”
  21. #21
    “The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you’ve been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil.”
  22. #22
    “But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.”
  23. #23
    “There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”
  24. #24
    “As for my husband, she said, he’s just that. My husband. I want that to be perfectly clear. Till death do us part. It’s final.”
  25. #25
    “Knowing was a temptation. What you don’t know won’t tempt you.”
  26. #26
    “You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.”
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