9 quotes from The Handmaid’s Tale that will teach you about yourself and the world

As the gripping TV adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale comes to the UK, we revisit 9 quotes from Marget Atwood's classic novel that taught us important lessons about humanity

Margaret Atwood began writing The Handmaid’s Tale while living in in West Berlin in 1984. The Berlin Wall was still standing then, and the culture of that society can be felt throughout the novel.

But as Atwood herself wrote: "It can’t happen here could not be depended upon: anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances."

Walls come down and new ones – literal or otherwise – go up, and there are loud echoes of today’s world in the novel, too. All of which makes these 9 quotes from the book just as fresh and relevant  today as they were in the 1980s.


Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it


I wait. I compose myself. My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born.

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Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some

He was not a monster, to her. Probably he had some endearing trait: he whistled, offkey, 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.

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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

That was one of the things they do. They force you to kill, within yourself

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Freedom, like everything else, is relative


The problem wasn’t only with the women, he says. The main problem was with the men. . . You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel.... Do they feel now? I say. Yes, he says, looking at me. They do


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You can't help what you feel but you can help how you behave


The Handmaid's Tale airs on Channel 4 from Sunday 28th May 2017. Find out more about the Vintage tie-in edition, with a new introduction by Margaret Atwood, or watch the TV trailer below.

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