Offred's daughter is a minor, yet important character in The Handmaid's Tale. She is the daughter of Offred (June) and Luke. She was born prior to the rise of the Republic of Gilead, and was separated from her parents after the regime came to power. Her real name is never mentioned in the novel.
One day, when she was eleven months old, just before she began to walk, a woman stole her out of a supermarket cart. It was a Saturday, which was when Luke and I did the week’s shopping, because both of us had jobs. She was sitting in the little baby seats they had then, in supermarket carts, with holes for the legs. She was happy enough, and I’d turned my back, the cat-food section I think it was; Luke was over at the side of the store, out of sight, at the meat counter. He liked to choose what kind of meat we were going to eat during the week. He said men needed more meat than women did, and that it wasn’t a superstition and he wasn’t being a jerk, studies had been done. There are some diʃerences, he said. He was fond of saying that, as if I was trying to prove there weren’t. But mostly he said it when my mother was there. He liked to tease her. I heard her start to cry. I turned around and she was disappearing down the aisle, in the arms of a woman I’d never seen before. I screamed, and the woman was stopped. She must have been about thirty-ɹve. She was crying and saying it was her baby, the Lord had given it to her, he’d sent her a sign. I felt sorry for her. The store manager apologized and they held her until the police came. She’s just crazy, Luke said. I thought it was an isolated incident, at the time.
We wait, the clock in the hall ticks, Serena lights another cigarette, I get into the car. It’s a Saturday morning, it’s a September, we still have a car. Other people have had to sell theirs. My name isn’t Oʃred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter. I keep the knowledge of this name like something hidden, some treasure I’ll come back to dig up, one day. I think of this name as buried. This name has an aura around it, like an amulet, some charm that’s survived from an unimaginably distant past. I lie in my single bed at night, with my eyes closed, and the name ɻoats there behind my eyes, not quite within reach, shining in the dark. It’s a Saturday morning in September, I’m wearing my shining name. The little girl who is now dead sits in the back seat, with her two best dolls, her stuʃed rabbit, mangy with age and love. I know all the details. They are sentimental details but I can’t help that. I can’t think about the rabbit too much though, I can’t start to cry, here on the Chinese rug, breathing in the smoke that has been inside Serena’s body. Not here, not now, I can do that later. She thought we were going on a picnic, and in fact there is a picnic basket on the back seat, beside her, with real food in it, hard-boiled eggs, thermos and all. We didn’t want her to know where we were really going, we didn’t want her to tell, by mistake, reveal anything, if we were stopped. We didn’t want to lay upon her the burden of our truth. I wore my hiking boots, she had on her sneakers. The laces of the sneakers had a design of hearts on them, red, purple, pink, and yellow. It was warm for the time of year, the leaves were turning already, some of them; Luke drove, I sat beside him, the sun shone, the sky was blue, the houses as we passed them looked comforting and ordinary, each house as it was left behind vanishing into past time, crumbling in an instant as if it had never been, because I would never see it again, or so I thought then. We have almost nothing with us, we don’t want to look as if we’re going anywhere far or permanent. We have the forged passports, guaranteed, worth the price. We couldn’t pay in money, of course, or put it on the Compucount: we used other things, some jewellery that was my grandmother’s, a stamp collection Luke inherited from his uncle. Such things can be exchanged, for money, in other countries. When we get to the border we’ll pretend we’re just going over on a day trip; the fake visas are for a day. Before that I’ll give her a sleeping pill so she’ll be asleep when we cross. That way she won’t betray us. You can’t expect a child to lie convincingly. And I don’t want her to feel frightened, to feel the fear that is now tightening my muscles, tensing my spine, pulling me so taut that I’m certain I would break if touched. Every stoplight is an ordeal. We’ll spend the night at a motel, or, better, sleeping in the car on a sideroad so there will be no suspicious questions. We’ll cross in the morning, drive over the bridge, easily, just like driving to the supermarket. We turn onto the freeway, head north, ɻowing with not much traɽc. Since the war started, gas is expensive and in short supply. Outside the city we pass the ɹrst checkpoint. All they want is a look at the licence, Luke does it well. The licence matches the passport: we thought of that. Back on the road, he squeezes my hand, glances over at me. You’re white as a sheet, he says. That is how I feel: white, ɻat, thin. I feel transparent. Surely they will be able to see through me. Worse, how will I be able to hold on to Luke, to her, when I’m so ɻat, so white? I feel as if there’s not much left of me; they will slip through my arms, as if I’m made of smoke, as if I’m a mirage, fading before their eyes. Don’t think that way, Moira would say. Think that way and you’ll make it happen. Cheer up, says Luke. He’s driving a little too fast now. The adrenalin’s gone to his head. Now he’s singing. Oh what a beautiful morning, he sings. Even his singing worries me. We’ve been warned not to look too happy. (Chapter 14).
I’m running, with her, holding her hand, pulling, dragging her through the bracken, she’s only half awake because of the pill I gave her, so she wouldn’t cry or say anything that would give us away, she doesn’t know where she is. The ground is uneven, rocks, dead branches, the smell of damp earth, old leaves, she can’t run fast enough, by myself I could run faster, I’m a good runner. Now she’s crying, she’s frightened, I want to carry her but she would be too heavy. I have my hiking boots on and I think, when we reach the water I’ll have to kick them oʃ, will it be too cold, will she be able to swim that far, what about the current, we weren’t expecting this. Quiet, I say to her angrily. I think about her drowning and this thought slows me. Then the shots come behind us, not loud, not like ɹrecrackers, but sharp and crisp like a dry branch snapping. It sounds wrong, nothing ever sounds the way you think it will, and I hear the voice, Down, is it a real voice or a voice inside my head or my own voice, out loud? I pull her to the ground and roll on top of her to cover her, shield her. Quiet, I say again, my face is wet, sweat or tears, I feel calm and ɻoating, as if I’m no longer in my body; close to my eyes there’s a leaf, red, turned early, I can see every bright vein. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I ease oʃ, I don’t want to smother her, instead I curl myself around her, keeping my hand over her mouth. There’s breath and the knocking of my heart, like pounding, at the door of a house at night, where you thought you would be safe. It’s all right, I’m here, I say, whisper, Please be quiet, but how can she? She’s too young, it’s too late, we come apart, my arms are held, and the edges go dark and nothing is left but a little window, a very little window, like the wrong end of a telescope, like the window on a Christmas card, an old one, night and ice outside, and within a candle, a shining tree, a family, I can hear the bells even, sleighbells, from the radio, old music, but through this window I can see, small but very clear, I can see her, going away from me, through the trees which are already turning, red and yellow, holding out her arms to me, being carried away (Chapter 13).
Offred's daughter was born a few years before Gilead came to power, when Offred was twenty-five years old. Offred does not mention her daughter's name, presumably to protect her identity, though she often speaks about her throughout the story. When Offred's daughter was an infant, her mother took her to a store, where a delusional woman who was implied to have lost her own baby attempted to abduct her, believing her to be her own child. Fortunately, Offred realized her daughter was missing and caught up to the woman, who was apprehended, and the little girl was returned to her mother unharmed.
When Gilead toppled the US government, Offred's daughter was around five years old and was unaware of the upheaval and growing danger to her family. Her parents attempted to flee across the border with her to Canada, telling her only that they were going on a day trip and giving her a light sedative during the journey, so that she would not panic or inadvertently give them away to the authorities. Unfortunately, as they were attempting to cross the border, they were ambushed by soldiers. Luke told Offred to take their daughter and run, and Offred fled with the girl, half-carrying her due to the sedative still wearing off. Unfortunately, they were caught and the soldiers took Offred's daughter away from her, saying she would be given to a 'worthy' family.
Three years later, Offred has neither seen or heard of her daughter. Serena Joy offers to get information on her daughter, if she will sleep with Nick to conceive a child, and Offred agrees, eager to learn what has become of her child. Serena Joy is able to get a photograph of Offred's daughter; she is now around eight years old, wearing a long white dress, and has apparently been adopted by a family loyal to the regime, who are taking good care of her. Offred breaks down in tears; although she is happy to see her daughter is alright, she has missed out on her growing up, can never see her and realizes that her daughter may have forgotten about her. It is unknown if Offred and her daughter were ever reunited, or if her daughter had truly forgotten about her real parents.
So tall and changed. Smiling a little now, so soon, and in her white dress as if for an olden-days First Communion. Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of sand, left by a careless child too near the water. I have been obliterated for her. I am only a shadow now, far back behind the glib shiny surface of this photograph. A shadow of a shadow, as dead mothers become. You can see it in her eyes: I am not there. But she exists, in her white dress. She grows and lives. Isn’t that a good thing? A blessing? Still, I can’t bear it, to have been erased like that. Better she’d brought me nothing.
|Chapter 2||Offred (Novel) | Aunt Sara | Aunt Elizabeth (Novel) | Alma (Novel) | Janine (Novel) | Dolores (Novel) | Moira (Novel) | June (Novel) | Aunt Lydia (Novel) | Rita | Cora (Novel) | Luke (Novel) ||
|Commander (Novel) | Serena Joy (Novel) ||
|Nick | Ofglen | 5: Janine 7: Offred's Mother | Offred's (First) Daughter | Angela|