Moira’s Roles In The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood

People try to hold on to a memory or thought of someone or an idea that has given them hope. This gives hopeless people the belief that things can improve. Offred is the protagonist in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. She faces both internal and exterior conflicts while living within the totalitarian Gilead society. The narrator tells Offred the story of her rebellious, strong friend Moira. It gives her new hope and makes it easier for her to live in Gilead. Moira has several roles in the book. She is Offred’s friend, providing her with memories to help her cope as a handmaid. Moira also serves as the voice and example of reason in the tale, a woman of inspiration to the other Handmaids, and the symbol of hope for women. Moira represents hope and courage to the narrator. Most other women are either brainwashed or have lost these qualities.

Offred is only sane because of her memory of Moira. Offred’s memory of Moira reminds her of the Boston she knew before Gilead. Offred remembers Moira’s time at college and how the two of them took everything for granted. “Let’s get a drink.” The paper was due the following day. What was the paper? Psychology, English, Economics. Then, we studied the same things. It is evident from Moira’s conversation that women are restricted in Gilead. It is forbidden for them to smoke or consume alcohol and reading or writing by women is prohibited. It is important to remove the need for education in order to limit women’s abilities to communicate, and thus reduce their chances of rebelling. Gilead is able to control all women’s lives. Offred remembers Moira’s comment that “Once the women start to get age spots, they think they have to beat their competition.” The pornomarts (Atwood, 50). This flashback refers to the clothes and lingerie that were worn in the past society. Due to their rank, women now wear only conservative long dresses with bonnets in different colours. Gilead also prohibits makeup and porn. Offred says that this kind of conversation used to be normal in their society. Offred feels hatred towards the commander who is outside her window in this chapter. She considers throwing or spitting the Faith cushion outside the window to hit him. The narrator describes a time that she and Moira sprayed “paper bags full of water”. Water bombs (…) Dropping them from my dorm’s window on the heads below the boys” (Atwood, 58). Offred uses the funny memory of Moira with her to suppress her anger towards the commander. This prank had been played in good humor before Gilead and no one got punished. The narrator will not throw anything towards the commander for fear of a harsh punishment if he disgraced a powerful man. Offred remembers fondly her friendship with Moira and how it helped her stay afloat during the difficult society of Gilead.

Moira is a voice of logic in the book. She uses evidence and logic to help the women make decisions, which Gilead tries taking away. The narrator fears that her close friend will disapprove of her secret love affair and her late-night conversations with the commander. She said that I rationalized in the past when she disproved her affair with Luke. I told her I was in love. She said it was not an excuse. Moira always had a better sense of logic than I did” (Atwood 172). Moira tells Offred in a direct and unbiased way that her affair with Luke, her husband now, is morally wrong. The narrator believes that Moira is not going to approve of the relationship between her and Commander. It’s unethical. Offred remembers in a flashback that Moira once slapped Janine for being out of control. Moira said, “Snap Janine. They’re not going to waste time with you. You won’t be sent to the Colonies. You are taken to a chemistry-lab and shot if you’re too distant. “Then they burn up your garbage, like a Unwoman.” Offred remembers Moira attempting to reason with Janine, while the others women looked on. Moira tells Janine to be normal in front of the aunts, if she doesn’t want to die a sad and short death. Nick stares at Offred in the night while she is hungry for love. Offred, realizing that Luke cannot be replaced by Nick, remembers Moira once saying, “You are responsible for your actions, not what you feel” (Atwood 192). Offred takes Moira at that time’s logical counsel to avoid acting on her feelings toward Nick. It is illegal to do so, and Offred doesn’t trust Nick as yet. Moira uses rational reasoning to try to protect the women and friends she cares about in this totalitarian world.

Moira has been a model for Offred in particular. Her rebellious spirit instills hope and determination into women all around her. Moira, who appears to have escaped Gilead has inspired the other Handmaids with ambition and desire to rebel. “Nonetheless, Moira remained our fantasy. We hugged to her, she stayed with us secretly, a chuckle; she was lava underneath the surface of everyday life. Moira’s presence made the aunts less intimidating and more ridiculous. Their power was flawed”. This metaphor suggests that there is a rebellion in Gilead just below the surface. The society of Gilead appears fragile. Moira refuses to be brainwashed, and is unwilling to surrender her freedom. “Moira is like an open-sided elevator. She makes me dizzy. Already we had lost the taste for the freedom. You’d dissolve in the upper atmosphere, and there’d be no pressure to hold you together. The narrator is implying that Moira’s side is rebellious and dangerous. Elevators are a great way to get around, and it could be said that Moira started the freedom movement in the novel. She is a rebellious spirit, because she will do anything to be happy no matter what the consequences. After her second failed escape attempt, Moira is no longer rebellious. She has now become complacent with the rules she was taught. She is now frightening to me, as I hear indifference in her tone, and a complete lack of will. Has she really been robbed of something? -that was so important to them? How can I ask her to act out and live my courage if I don’t? Offred could not have the rebellious qualities that Moira had, but she was still okay with it, as long they were present. Gilead is the real winner if Moira loses them.

Moira’s character is the symbol of hope in Gilead for all women. At the end, Gilead breaks Moira and takes away the escape hopes she planted in others’ minds. Moira is a rebellious, hopeful woman who contrasts with Offred’s way of surviving in Gilead. Moira’s constant fight for freedom contrasts with Offred who chooses to obey the laws in Gilead. Offred said that throughout the novel she wished she was more similar to Moira. The screwdriver is missing, but I’m sure Moira could get it done without one. I’m Not Moira”. Offred thinks Moira has more courage than her. Offred worries about the safety of her daughter in Gilead, whereas Moira does not have to worry. Offred recalls that Moira wasn’t as shocked as she was when they found out women couldn’t hold property or money. She seemed a little giddy. As if it were something she’d expected and had now been proved right. She even looked more energetic, more determined” (Atwood 178). Moira felt validated by her perceptions and was given a new purpose with the new laws. She is now more determined to resist this new order. Moira’s determination to resist the new order was more energizing than Offred, who merely watched the changes take place. The Commander asks her for a kiss during their first encounter. Offred contemplates Moira’s suggestion to kill the Commander with a sharp lever made from toilet paper. But she later says that she doesn’t consider this. Offred’s plans for escape are never carried out, unlike Moira. Offred differs from Moira in that she does not rebel against Gilead. Instead, Offred is passive, whereas Moira is active.

Moira represents hope and courage for the narrator. Qualities that many women no longer possess. Women shouldn’t suffer alone and be forced to accept authority even in the most horrific circumstances. Offred keeps herself sane because of her memories of Moira. Moira represents the voice of logic and reason within a society which is not corrupt like most. Moira represents hope to many Handmaids and contrasts Offred’s actions in the novel. Moira is the protagonist of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaids Tale. She gives the reader hope that Gilead, and women in general, will change one day. In difficult situations, people hold on to someone or something that inspires them with hope for the future.



Makhi is a 34 yo educational blogger who is passionate about writing and exploring new content ideas. She has a degree in English from the University of Utah and is currently working as a teacher in a public school in Utah. Makhi has been published in numerous online journals and has been featured on national television networks.