29+ quotes from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Quotes from The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood ·  311 pages

Rating: (828.4K votes)


“Don't let the bastards grind you down.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don't let the bastards grind you down.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Falling in love, we said; I fell for him. We were falling women. We believed in it, this downward motion: so lovely, like flying, and yet at the same time so dire, so extreme, so unlikely. God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always, for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.

And sometimes it happened, for a time. That kind of love comes and goes and is hard to remember afterwards, like pain. You would look at the man one day and you would think, I loved you, and the tense would be past, and you would be filled with a sense of wonder, because it was such an amazing and precarious and dumb thing to have done; and you would know too why your friends had been evasive about it, at the time.

There is a good deal of comfort, now, in remembering this.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“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.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, criscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.
Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn't really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn't about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it's about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you've been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“You can think clearly only with your clothes on.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city. Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes. Wool blanket.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“I am not your justification for existence.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I repeat my former name; remind myself of what I once could do, how others saw me. I want to steal something.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“It's impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because of what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, too many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavors, in the air or on the tongue, half-colors, too many.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“I feel like the word shatter.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“If it's a story I'm telling, then I have control over the ending...
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.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“All you have to do, I tell myself, is keep your mouth shut and look stupid. It shouldn't be that hard.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Maybe the life I think I'm living is a paranoid delusion...Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“Knowing was a temptation. What you don't know won't tempt you.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


“I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to it, this wanting.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from The Handmaid's Tale


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About the author

Margaret Atwood
Born place: in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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