Chapter XIV: Salvaging is the 14th chapter of The Handmaid's Tale (Novel). It contains section 41-45.
Section 41 Edit
Offred tells her imagined listener that her story is almost too painful to bear, but that she needs to go on telling it because it wills her listener into being. She may be addressing the reader, or she may be addressing Luke; she says she wants to hear her listener’s story too, if her listener escapes. Offred says she continues to see Nick at night without Serena’s knowledge. She feels thankful each time he opens the door to her. He never says much, but she finds herself telling him about Moira and Ofglen. She tells him her real name. She never mentions Luke. Eventually, she tells him she thinks she is pregnant, although privately she feels this is wishful thinking. During their shopping trips, Ofglen pressures Offred to break into the Commander’s office. She wants Offred to find out what he really does, what responsibilities he has. But Offred now tunes out Ofglen and spends her time thinking about Nick.
Section 42 Edit
A women’s “Salvaging,” or large-scale execution, is held in what used to be Harvard Yard. All the women in the district must attend. On the lawn in front of the former library sits a stage like the one used for commencement in pre-Gilead days. Aunt Lydia sits on the stage, supervising the hangings. It is the first time Offred has seen Aunt Lydia since leaving the Red Center. Aunt Lydia announces that they have decided to discontinue announcing the crimes of the convicted because it sparks copycat crimes. The Handmaids are dismayed; the crimes give them hope by showing them that women can still resist. Three women are hanged, two Handmaids and one Wife. Offred speculates that the Handmaid tried to kill her Commander’s Wife. She says Wives get salvaged for only three things: killing a Handmaid, adultery, or attempted escape. The Handmaids must place their hands on a long rope as the women hang, in order to show their consent to the salvaging.
Section 43 Edit
After the hanging, Aunt Lydia instructs the Handmaids to form a circle. A few of the other women leave, but most Wives and daughters stay to watch. Then two Guardians drag a third Guardian to the front. He is disheveled and smells of excrement. He looks drunk or drugged. Aunt Lydia announces that he and another Guardian have been convicted of rape. His partner was shot already, but this man has been saved for the Handmaids, who will take part in what is called a “Particicution.” Aunt Lydia adds that one of the two Handmaids involved was pregnant and lost the baby in the attack. A wave of raw fury courses through the crowd; Offred feels bloodlust along with the others. Aunt Lydia blows a whistle, and the Handmaids close in on the man, kicking and beating him to a bloody pulp. Ofglen dashes in first and kicks his head several times. Afterward, disgusted with her friend, Offred asks Ofglen why she did it. Ofglen whispers that the supposed rapist was part of the underground rebellion, and she wanted to put him out of his misery quickly. Offred sees Janine carrying a bloody clump of hair. Her eyes look vacant, and she babbles some cheerful greetings from the time before Gilead. Offred admits, ashamed, that she feels great hunger.
Section 44 Edit
Soon after the Salvaging, Offred goes out for a shopping trip, comforted by the ordinariness of the routine. To her dismay, the Handmaid who meets her is not Ofglen. When Offred asks her where Ofglen went, the woman replies, “I am Ofglen.” Since this new Handmaid now lives with the Commander named Glen, her name becomes Ofglen. Offred realizes how women get lost in this ocean of fluctuating names. Trying to see if the new woman belongs to the resistance, Offred suggests they go to the Wall. As they walk there, Offred works the password “Mayday” into the conversation by mentioning the old holiday of “May Day.” The new Ofglen looks at her coolly and tells her that she should forget such “echoes” from the old world. Terrified, Offred realizes that the new Ofglen knows about the resistance and does not belong to it. She suddenly imagines herself found out and arrested. She thinks that perhaps they will torture her daughter until she tells them everything she knows. She and the new, treacherous Ofglen walk home. As they part, the new Ofglen suddenly whispers that the old Ofglen hanged herself when she saw the van coming to arrest her. “’It was better,’” she says, and then walks quickly away.
Section 45 Edit
Offred feels great relief when she hears that Ofglen has committed suicide, for now Ofglen will not give her name to the Eyes while being tortured. For the first time, Offred feels completely within the power of the authorities. She feels she will do anything necessary to live—stop wanting control of her body, stop resisting, stop seeing Nick. From the porch, Serena calls to Offred. When Offred comes in, she holds out her winter cloak and the sequined outfit Offred wore to the club. She asks Offred how she could be so vulgar, and then tells Offred she is a slut like the other Handmaid and will come to the same end. Nick stops whistling, but Offred does not look at him. She manages to remain calm and composed as she retreats to her room.
- "SparkNote on The Handmaid’s Tale." http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/handmaid/.
- Chapter transcript: