I think that “freedom to and freedom from” in The Handmaid’s Tale is a nicer way of saying that the women in this dystopic society actually have no freedoms at all. Whatever life they were living before they were handmaids, the women are now entirely “free” from them.
It is very difficult for the reader to understand what Aunt Lydia means by “freedom”. Life for the handmaids is obviously anything but “free”. The handmaids are not allowed to read, they are not to address people unless spoken to, and they cannot even walk around town alone- they must be accompanied by another handmaid! I think that what Aunt Lydia is referring to when she says “freedom” is that the handmaids have been liberated from all the “obligations” of their former lives. When Aunt Lydia says “Ordinary, is not what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary” (Atwood, 33). It sounds to me as if Aunt Lydia is telling the women they have been liberated from their former lives, which were not at all unlike the Japanese tourists that Offred encountered during her shopping trip. After a time, the handmaids will not even miss their former lives. The womens’ new lives will become ordinary, and normal for them.
I think the passage at hand opens the book wide open to the horror that the book is expressing. Yes, in this “new life”, the women don’t have to walk alone at night, or go into a laundromat by themselves, but they also do not have basic rights. The Republic of Gilead is taking many steps backward, which is certainly opposite than a future society would hope to be doing. Women are not meant to be just a uterus. They can benefit society in so many ways, which is not at all true in this story.