Chapter 1: What do you think of it? Chapter 1 raises lots of questions, which is what I think Atwood intended. It describes the gymnasium where a group of girls are staying. However we do not know if they are voluntarily staying or if they are prisoners. We know that there are at least five girls staying there, but there could be more. The first paragraph creates an eerie atmosphere. It creates images of an old gymnasium, haunted by the music and the girls from dances that had taken place previously. We know that this place is no longer used as a gymnasium;
“We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. ” The paragraph describes the gym, how it looks, smells e. t. c. It talks about the place and how it used to be fun, but that now all the fun has gone. “The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it for the games that had formerly played there. ” “Formerly” suggests that the games used to be played (games represent fun and a sense freedom) but are now forbidden. The fact that the games have been forbidden raises questions as to who has banned them, and shows that there is obviously some sort of authority here.
Atwood identifies the girls by image, rather than name or speech; “Felt skirted as I knew them from pictures, later in mini-skirts, then pants….. ” This shows that Atwood wanted, to a certain extent, to keep the girls anonymous, thus, I imagine increasing the mysteriousness of the passage. The second paragraph becomes a little more personal; “There was old sex in the room, and loneliness, and expectation…. ” It recalls on youthful experiences; “I remember that yearning for something…. ” The third paragraph, again like the first, raises a lot of questions.
It moves on to talk about the present day living conditions for the people there now. “We had flannelette sheets…. ” It reveals more about what is going on, but gives nothing away and still carries on raising unanswered questions. “…… as we tried to sleep, in the army cots that had been set up in rows. ” Why were they sleeping in army cots? “… With spaces between so we could not talk. ” This shows again, that there is some sort of control over the people here. “Aunt Sara and Aunt Elizabeth patrolled; they had electric cattle prods. ”
The Aunts obviously have authority because they carry cattle prods. In this quote there is a large contrast when talking about the aunts. The term “Aunts” suggests a relationship with love and affection, however this is contrasted with the fact that they carry a weapon, to, what we believe, harm the girls there. The fourth paragraph becomes deeper. It expresses what I interpret to be the girl’s desperation. “If only they would look. If only we could talk to them. Something could be exchanged, we thought, some deal made, some trade-off, we still had our bodies.