Chapter VI: Household is the 6th chapter of The Handmaid's Tale (Novel). It contains section 14-17.
Section 14 Edit
After bathing and eating, Offred must attend the Ceremony with the rest of the household. The Commander is always late for the Ceremony. Serena sits while Offred kneels on the floor. Rita, Cora, and Nick stand behind Offred. Nick’s shoe touches Offred’s. She shifts her foot away, but he moves his foot so it touches hers again. As usual, Serena allows them to watch the news while they wait. Television stations from Canada are blocked, and most of the programming is religious. The news reports that spies were caught smuggling “national resources” across the border, and that five Quakers have been arrested. The newscaster declares that the “resettlement of the Children of Ham” is proceeding, with thousands of people forced to resettle in the Dakotas.
Offred remembers how she and Luke purchased fake passports when they decided to escape. They told their daughter they were going on a picnic and planned to give her a sleeping pill when they crossed the border so that she would not be questioned or give them away. They packed nothing in their car because they did not want to arouse suspicion.
Section 15 Edit
The Commander arrives and proceeds to unlock an ornate box. He takes out a Bible and reads to everyone. Offred wonders what it is like to be a man like him, surrounded by women who watch his every move. The Commander reads passages that emphasize childbearing. As the Commander reads, his Wife begins to sob softly. The Commander reads the story of Rachel and Leah from the book of Genesis. Rachel was barren, so she urged her husband to have a child by her maid, Bilhah. At the Red Center, this story was drilled into the Handmaids. During lunch, they played recordings of a male voice reciting the Beatitudes, so the Aunts would not have to commit the sin of reading. Offred remembers the time when Moira decided to fake an illness, hoping to escape by bribing one of the men in the ambulance with sex. When she tried it on an Angel, he reported her. The Aunts tortured Moira by beating her feet with steel cables, the punishment for a first offense. The -punishment for a second offense was beating the hands. Aunt Lydia reminded the women that hands and feet did not matter for their purpose.
Section 16 Edit
After the prayers and Bible reading, the Ceremony continues as usual. In the bedroom, Offred lies on her back between Serena’s legs, her head resting on Serena’s pubic bone. Serena is fully clothed, while Offred’s skirt is hiked up and her underwear is off. The two women hold hands, and Serena’s rings dig into Offred’s fingers. The Commander has sex with Offred in a brisk, impersonal fashion, then zips himself up and leaves the room promptly. Serena orders Offred to leave, even though Offred is supposed to rest for ten minutes to improve her chances of getting pregnant.
Section 17 Edit
Once Offred is safely alone in her bedroom, she removes the butter from her shoe and uses it as lotion for her skin because lotion and beauty products are forbidden to the Handmaids. Offred cannot sleep, so she decides to steal something. She sneaks downstairs and decides to take a daffodil from a flower arrangement. She wants to press it under her mattress and leave it for the next Handmaid to find. As she stands in the sitting room, she senses the presence of someone behind her in the room. It is Nick. Neither of them are supposed to be downstairs. Wordlessly, they kiss, and she longs to have sex with him right there. She thinks of Luke, telling him he would understand, then thinking he wouldn’t. Sex is too dangerous, and Nick and Offred separate. Nick whispers that the Commander sent him to find her. The Commander wants to see her in his office tomorrow.
- "SparkNote on The Handmaid’s Tale." http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/handmaid/.
- Chapter transcript: