The Handmaid’s Tale: 9 Key Moments from the First Three Episodes

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The Handmaid’s Tale — “Birth Day” — Episode 102 — Offred and her fellow Handmaids assist with the delivery of Janine’s baby, prompting Offred to recall her own daughterÕs birth. Offred draws closer to Ofglen while dreading a secret meeting with the Commander. Janine (Madeline Brewer), center and Offred (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

The Birthing Process

Ofwarren/Janine giving birth to a little girl is absolutely loaded with symbolism, which probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But let’s tie it back to the salvaging from the first episode.

No, wait, really. The point of both the salvaging and the birth scene is to tie the handmaids together into a community. With such circumscribed lives, either of those two events injects some meaning into their lives aside from trying to have children.

Here’s a key word to interpreting all three, including the ceremonies with commanders: primality. Offred mentions that the birthing room has a certain smell about it, “something primal.” Giving life, trying to create life, and death are three animal instincts.

Think of something like the Two Minutes Hate from 1984. The goal is to let all of those urges out so that it’s easier to control the handmaids going forward … or at least that seems like some thinking that the Republic of Gilead would use. But it also ties them together emotionally. As the aunts present Janine’s baby to her commander’s wife, the other handmaids go in to embrace Janine, soothing and comforting her.

There’s a lot more to pick apart, including the contrast of the wives almost dreamily bidding the other wife to breathe through her fake labor as harp music, while the aunts and handmaids chant instructions without any music. For the sake of brevity, all of the different women are kept striated for a reason — and the wives have an image to maintain that the handmaids don’t.