1. 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.
In this society, women are coveted, they have the respect they didn’t have before they are ‘free’ from horrible men. Yet, their freedom to a meaningful life has been forgotten. They aren’t able to have jobs, drive, marry who they choose or even read books.
2. Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted. Nobody said when.
Offred begins to question all of the suffering and pain in the society which seems to have no end.
3. Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.
Offred is talking about finally getting out of her duty as a handmaid. Either by being released or by escaping, she needs to keep her mind sharp.
4. You might even provide a Heaven for them. We need you for that. Hell, we can make for ourselves.
Offred is praying (one of the very few times) and she asks God to make a heaven for those suffering. She doesn’t think people deserve a life of suffering, a homemade type of Hell is evidently obtainable, living a peaceful free life relies soley on God at this point in her life.
5. But people will do anything rather than admit their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.
After Janine delivers an unbaby, she blames herself. But Offred observes that it is better for people to blame themselves and feel like they had an active role in their lives no matter how terrible. The alternative being they have no control over their lives and they mean nothing.
6. Just do your duty in silence. When in doubt, when flat on your back, you can look at the ceiling.
This is referring to the Handmaid’s whose sole value lies in the fact they are able to bear children. They have no choice, each handmaid is a uterus. They get no pleasure, no voice, no freedom. They are only meant to have babies for barren high-class couples.
7. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
*Meaning: Don’t let the bastards wear you down.* This becomes Offred’s motto throughout the book, many times offering it as a janky version of a prayer.
8. These things you did were like; you did them and you hoped they would save you. And for the most part they did. Or something did; you could tell by the fact that you were still alive.
Near the end of the novel, Offred has a bit of an existential crisis, questioning her life and the whole society. She thinks that people have little routines, little prayers, that would turn out to be your salvation. Nature dictates you are only trying to survive and so because you are alive, these little prayers worked. Except they probably didn’t. You live until you die and nothing can save you.