Marxist- Cristina Garcia

COMMANDER VRS HANDMAID

Throughout this passage, it is made very clear who holds the power. There are instances that emphasize the commander as the power holder compared to Offred.

Status

“I feel as if my feet in their flat red shoesaren'tquite touching the floor, but of course they are.” (pg 130, line 4)

From the beginning of the book, we've been given the fixed idea of commanders as being higher in rank, hence the term “angels” that is applied to them.
In this passage, we are remained of Offred’s ranking through her red shoes. Her shoes being flat emphasize it further. There is no curve, no heel, nothing
all that special about a flat shoe. That’s how Offred should be seen. However, the image of Offred’s feet not “quite touching the floor” would seem to suggest
that her status isn’t quite distinct. It is also important to note that Offred isn’t wearing her complete uniform- her hat and bow are missing. This could be because
of where she is at the moment- the forbidden room.

So that’s what’s in the forbidden room!” (pg 130, line 28)

The room that Offred is told to enter is one where women cannot go to, not even Serena Joy. The room is men’s domain. It is stated a few times how the
Commander gave Offred a certain smile that only he’d be old enough to know how it affected women. Offred states that, “the young ones don’t know those tricks.
They’ve never had to use them.” (pg 130, line 24-25) It is evident that men having the most power has been around for quite a while, so the fact that Offred is in
that room is a very big deal. It messes with that law of who has the power .Her missing components of her uniform and her feeling of risen feet are a reflection of that.
Regardless, there is still a distinction between her and the Commander.

Desire

Handmaids are not allowed to want. They are not allowed to have desires. That is something that they’ve been stripped away from, right from the beginning of the book.
To want is to be weak. She wants, so she is weak. He wants as well, but being a commander, it doesn’t matter. He’s exempt from that rule. This passage is set up so
Offred feels all the desires she shouldn’t have. Of course, these desires are a result of her status of being a handmaid. It begins the moment she is told to enter the
forbidden room. The feeling she has of her feet not quite touching the floor can also symbolize this. There is also the fact that it is illegal for handmaids to be alone with commanders. This just makes the forbidden room all that more enticing for Offred.

Now, at first it seems odd that Offred is, not only participating in activities she shouldn’t be, but it’s also being done in the last room you’d least expect her to be in. That is,
until you think about why. The whole point of her coming to this room was because the commander wanted to play scrabble with her. He wants to play with a handmaid
specifically because he can’t do it with his wife. Games are “indecent”. Obviously he can’t get his wife, someone of much higher ranking to play, so why not get a handmaid instead?

“It’s as if he offered me drugs” (pg 130, line 40)

For Offred, games are forbidden, dangerous and desirable. Offred has been conditioned to believe that they are like drugs, bad for you, but something you want. This is highlighted as Offred uses the scrabble game to be able to write again.

“I want you to kiss me.” (pg 131, line 28)

Offred’s place in society also plays a factor in why the commander asks her to kiss him, and also why she is willing to do it. The Commander’s relationship with his wife
is more businesslike. It’s more of a duty for him. So it wouldn’t seem entirely fitting to kiss his own wife. He wouldn’t get the same kind of buzz as he could from Offred,
because kissing his wife isn’t illegal. For Offred, this is a chance of a lifetime. However, she still knows her place, and keeps her contact minimal.

More pages