The Red Centre
The beds stretch as far as the eye can see as the Aunts parade between them, keeping watch over the helpless and horror-stricken new Handmaids.
Meeting Serena Joy, the Commander's wife
In their first meeting, Serena Joy is determined to show Offred who is in charge. Like Atwood, Nault portrays her as an older woman, where in the TV series Yvonne Strahovsky shows her as more of a contemporary of Offred’s.
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum
This phrase has become synonymous with The Handmaid’s Tale and female resistance. Here, Offred discovers the message scratched into the wall by her predecessor and begins to hope.
This is the central moment in the lives of Gilead’s Commanders, their Wives and the Handmaids. As in the novel and the TV series, Nault doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the scene. The close-ups of their faces say so much here.
Gilead forbids women to read or write. (In the second series of the TV Serena Joy has her little finger cut off for daring to read from the Bible.) But Commander Waterford invites Offred into his study to play Scrabble and it becomes not just a game of words but a game of power. The words that appear on the board are ripe with significance.
In Gilead, sex is purely functional, not for pleasure. Jezebel’s shouldn’t exist but, just as the Handmaids have their secret Mayday network, so the Commanders have their illicit entertainment and, as their relationship develops, Commander Waterford decides to show Offred this hidden world.
Towards the end of the novel, the Handmaids are tricked into thinking that one of the Guardians is a rapist. In fact, he was part of the resistance. But the Handmaids are pawns in this story, and this scene shows how they are manipulated by the constant threat of death – or worse.
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