Notes from The Handmaid’s Tale

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Here is a collection of quotes from Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale:

Fraternize means to behave like a brother. Luke told me that. He said there was no corresponding word that meant to behave like a sister. Sororize, it would have to be, he said.

The young ones are often the most dangerous, the most fanatical, the jumpiest with their guns. They haven’t yet learned about existence through time. You have to go slowly with them.

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.

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. It isn’t a story I’m telling. It’s also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell, rather than write, because I have nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden. But if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone. You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else. Even when there is no one.

I read about that in Introduction to Psychology; that, and the chapter on caged rats who’d give themselves electric shocks for something to do. And the one on the pigeons, trained to peck a button which made a grain of corn appear. Three groups of them: the first got one grain per peck, the second one grain every other peck, the third was random. When the man in charge cut off the grain, the first group gave up quite soon, the second group a little later. The third group never gave up. They’d peck themselves to death, rather than quit. Who knew what worked?

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  • Aaron Davis
  • Aaron Davis

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