A chair. A table, a lamp. There's a window with white curtains, and the glass is shatterproof. But it isn't running away they're afraid of. A Handmaid wouldn't get far. It's those other escapes. The ones you can open in yourself given a cutting edge. Or a twisted sheet and a chandelier. I try not to think about those escapes. It's harder on ceremony days, but thinking can hurt your chances. My name is Offred. I had another name, but it's forbidden now. So many things are forbidden now.

I'm watching The Handmaid's Tale S01 E01. Does the 'escape' mean a suicide? Why did she say "a twisted sheet and a chandelier"? And what does that mean "thinking can hurt your chances"?

All in all, I'm in trouble to understand what she want to say. Please, help.

3 Answers 3


In The Handmaid's Tale the American government has been overthrown by a religious fundamentalist group. There is a crisis as most women have become infertile. The few fertile women are forced to have sex with senior government men and are called "Handmaids". These rapes are called "ceremonies" in the book. The narrator is a Handmaid.

Being a Handmaid is a very bad position for a woman. Some try to kill themselves using bits of glass or by hanging. Suicide would be an escape from life as a handmaid. The window is shatterproof to prevent suicide. A twisted sheet could be used to hang oneself from a ceiling light.

Handmaids are expected to do what they are told. Thinking leads to action. And action could be punished violently. The narrator says that she has learned to hide her thoughts, particularly suicidal thoughts, even though on the days that she is raped it is harder. Thinking can make it harder for a Handmaid to survive in this world.


You have many questions here. The author does seem to be alluding to suicide when she uses the word "escape" - a literal escape from life. Twisted sheet and chandelier can presumably be used by the Handmaids to hang themselves. Not having read the book, I don't know what "ceremony days" are. So, I can't really answer the part about hurting one's chances. It likely means that thinking about suicide will hurt your chances on ceremony days. You may want to read the book to get the more subtle meanings that screen adaptations can't convey.

  • Yes, this is correct. The narrator is talking about "escape" through suicide, which is what happened to the previous handmaid. As to the meaning of "ceremony days", I highly recommend reading the book. This is the opening passage of the book, but you quickly find out what the "ceremony" is, and her feelings will make perfect sense in context.
    – Andrew
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:18

Yes. In "it's those other escapes", the other escapes are forms of suicide.

We don't know this when we first encounter those words, but the following sentences offer suggestions of such escapes. Given a cutting edge, a Handmaiden might slit her wrists. Or, she might hang herself with a sheet from a chandelier.

Since "escapes" means "types of suicide", the next sentence implies "I try not to think about suicide". One possible implication here is that she has intrusive thoughts about suicide. She may even be having suicidal impulses. "Thinking can hurt your chances" suggests that she does. Thinking about suicide would make it harder for her to resist those impulses.

What is she saying overall? Life for her and for many other Handmaidens is so bad, they frequently kill themselves.

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