The Commander in The Handmaid's Tale, written by masters of this stuff just want her to die, and that he feels guilty about the Offred who came before her. The head of the household where Offred serves as a Handmaid, and husband of Serena Joy. The Commander has gray hair, wears a black suit, and looks “like. The Commander's independenceDeveloping relationshipA cultured manThe The conversations Offred has with the Commander, both in his office and at.
Believed to be sterile although the suggestion is made that the Commander is sterile, Gileadean laws attribute sterility only to womenshe is forced to accept that he has use of a handmaid.
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She resents having to take part in the monthly fertility ritual. She strikes a deal with Offred to arrange for her to have sex with Nick in order to become pregnant. According to Professor Pieixoto in the epilogue, "Serena Joy" or "Pam" are pseudonyms; the character's real name is implied to be Thelma.
Ofglen[ edit ] Ofglen is a neighbour of Offred's and a fellow Handmaid. She is partnered with Offred to do the daily shopping. Handmaids are never alone and are expected to police each other's behaviour. Ofglen is a member of the Mayday resistance. In contrast to Offred, she is daring. She knocks out a Mayday spy who is to be tortured and killed in order to save him the pain of a violent death. Offred is told that when Ofglen vanishes, it is because she has committed suicide before the government can take her into custody due to her membership in the resistance, possibly to avoid giving away any information.
A new handmaid, also called Ofglen, takes Ofglen's place, and is assigned as Offred's shopping partner. She threatens Offred against any thought of resistance. She breaks protocol by telling her what happened to the first Ofglen. Nick[ edit ] Nick is the Commander's chauffeur, who lives above the garage. By Serena Joy's arrangement, he and Offred start a sexual relationship to increase her chance of getting pregnant. If she were unable to bear the Commander a child, she would be declared sterile and shipped to the ecological wastelands of the Colonies.
Offred begins to develop feelings for him. Nick is an ambiguous character, and Offred does not know if he is a party loyalist or part of the resistance, though he identifies himself as the latter. The epilogue suggests that he really was part of the resistance, and aided Offred in escaping the Commander's house. Moira[ edit ] Moira has been a close friend of Offred's since college. A lesbian, she has resisted the homophobia of Gilead society. Moira is taken to be a Handmaid soon after Offred.
She escapes by stealing an Aunt's pass and clothes, but Offred later finds her working as a prostitute in a party-run brothel. She was caught and chose the brothel rather than to be sent to the Colonies. Luke[ edit ] Luke was Offred's husband prior to the formation of Gilead, having divorced his first wife to marry her. Under Gilead, all divorces were retroactively nullified, resulting in Offred being considered an adulteress and their daughter illegitimate.
Offred was forced to become a Handmaid and her daughter was given to a loyalist family. Since their attempt to escape to Canada, Offred has heard nothing of Luke.
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In his presentation at an academic conference, he talks about "the 'Problems of Authentication in Reference to The Handmaid's Tale'". Setting[ edit ] The novel is set in an indeterminate future, speculated to be around the year with a fundamentalist theonomy ruling the territory of what had been the United States but is now the Republic of Gilead.
Individuals are segregated by categories and dressed according to their social functions. Complex dress codes play a key role in imposing social control within the new society and serve to distinguish people by sex, occupation, and caste. The action takes place in what once was the Harvard Square neighbourhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts ;   Atwood studied at Radcliffe Collegelocated in this area.
Politics[ edit ] In Gilead, the bodies of fertile women are politicized and controlled. The North American population is falling as more men and women become infertile though in Gilead, legally, it is only women who can be the cause of infertility. Gilead's treatment of women is based upon a literal, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, meaning that women are the property of and subordinate to their husband, father, or head of household. They are not allowed to do anything that would grant them any power independent of this system.
They are not allowed to vote, hold a job, read, possess money, or own anything, among many other restrictions. A particular quote from The Handmaid's Tale sums this up: Gilead is within you" HT 5. This describes that there is no way around the societal bounds of women in this new state of government.
Handmaids, being not allowed to wed, are given two-year assignments with a commander, and lose their own name: When a handmaid is reassigned, her name changes with her. Their original identities before the revolution are suppressed, although while being reeducated as handmaids, they surreptitiously share their names with each other. In this book, the government appears to be strong though "no one in Gilead seems to be a true believer in its revolution" Beauchamp.
The Commanders, portrayed via Commander Fred, do not agree with their own doctrines. The commander takes Offred at one point to a brothel in order to have sex with her in an informal setting apart from the Ceremony. The wives, portrayed via Serena Joy, former television evangelist, disobey the rules set forth by their commander husbands. Serena smokes black market cigarettes and expresses the forbidden idea that men may be infertile, and schemes to get Offred impregnated by her chauffeur.
Priests unwilling to convert are executed and hanged from the Wall. Offred observes that Jews refusing to convert are allowed to emigrate from Gilead to Israel, and most choose to leave. However, in the Epilogue, Professor Pieixoto reveals that many of the emigrating Jews ended up being dumped into the sea while on the ships ostensibly tasked with transporting them to Israel, due to privatization of the "repatriation program" and capitalists' effort to maximize profits.
Offred mentions that many Jews who chose to stay were caught secretly practicing Judaism and executed. Caste and class[ edit ] African Americansthe main non-white ethnic group in this society, are called the Children of Ham. A state TV broadcast mentions they have been relocated en masse to "National Homelands" in the Midwest, which are suggestive of the Apartheid-era homelands set up by South Africa.
Sex and occupation[ edit ] The sexes are strictly divided. Gilead's society values reproduction by white women most highly. Women are categorised "hierarchically according to class status and reproductive capacity" as well as " metonymically colour-coded according to their function and their labour" Kauffman The Commander expresses the prevailing opinion that women are considered intellectually and emotionally inferior to men.
Women are segregated by clothing, as are men. With rare exception, men wear military or paramilitary uniforms. All classes of men and women are defined by the colors they wear as in Aldous Huxley 's dystopian Brave New Worlddrawing on colour symbolism and psychology.
All lower-status individuals are regulated by this dress code. All "non-persons" are banished to the "Colonies". Sterile, unmarried women are considered to be non-persons. Both men and women sent there wear grey dresses. Legitimate women[ edit ] The bonnets that Handmaids wear are modeled on Old Dutch Cleanser's faceless mascot, which Atwood in childhood found frightening. Wives always wear blue dresses and cloaks, suggesting traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary in historic Christian art.
When a Commander dies, his Wife becomes a Widow and must dress in black. Daughters The natural or adopted children of the ruling class. They wear white until marriage, which is now arranged.
The narrator's daughter may have been adopted by an infertile Wife and Commander and she is shown in a photograph wearing a long white dress. Handmaids Fertile women whose social function is to bear children for infertile Wives. Handmaids dress in ankle-length red dresses, white caps, and heavy boots.
In summer, they change into lighter-weight but still ankle-length dresses and slatted shoes.
When in public, in winter, they wear ankle-length red cloaks, red gloves, and heavy white bonnetswhich they call "wings" because the sides stick out, blocking their peripheral vision and shielding their faces from view. Handmaids are women of proven fertility who have broken the law.
The law includes both gender crimes, such as lesbianism; and religious crimes, such as adultery redefined to include sexual relationships with divorced partners since divorce is no longer legal. The Republic of Gilead justifies the use of the handmaids for procreation by referring to two biblical stories: In the first story, Jacob's infertile wife Rachel offers up her handmaid Bilhah to be a surrogate mother on her behalf, and then her sister Leah does the same with her own handmaid Zilpah even though Leah has already given Jacob many sons.
In the other story, which appears earlier in Genesis but is cited less frequently, Abraham has sex with his wife's handmaid, Hagar. Handmaids are assigned to Commanders and live in their houses. When unassigned, they live at training centers. Handmaids who successfully bear children continue to live at their commander's house until their children are weaned, at which point they are sent to a new assignment. Those who do produce children, however, will never be declared "Unwomen" or sent to the Colonies, even if they never have another baby.
Aunts Trainers of the Handmaids. They dress in brown. Aunts promote the role of Handmaid as an honorable way for a sinful woman to redeem herself. They also police the Handmaids, beating some and ordering the maiming of others. The aunts have an unusual amount of autonomy, compared to other women of Gilead. They are the only class of women permitted to read. The voice was a man's. They dress in green smocks.
The title of "Martha" is based on a story in Luke Econowives Women married to men of lower-rank, not members of the elite. They are expected to perform all the female functions: Their dress is multicoloured red, blue, and green to reflect these multiple roles, and is made of notably cheaper material. The division of labour among the women generates some resentment. Marthas, Wives and Econowives perceive Handmaids as promiscuous and are taught to scorn them.
Offred mourns that the women of the various groups have lost their ability to empathize with each other. They are divided in their oppression. Illegitimate women[ edit ] Unwomen Sterile women, the unmarried, some widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, and politically dissident women: Gilead exiles Unwomen to "the Colonies", areas both of agricultural production and deadly pollution.
Joining them are handmaids who fail to bear a child after three two-year assignments. Jezebels Women forced to become prostitutes and entertainers. They are available only to the Commanders and to their guests. Offred portrays Jezebels as attractive and educated; they may be unsuitable as handmaids due to temperament. They have been sterilized, a surgery that is forbidden to other women. They operate in unofficial but state-sanctioned brothels, unknown to most women.
Jezebels, whose title also comes from the Bible note Queen Jezebel in the Books of Kingsdress in the remnants of sexualized costumes from "the time before", such as cheerleaders' costumes, school uniforms, and Playboy Bunny costumes. Jezebels can wear make-up, drink alcohol and socialize with men, but are tightly controlled by the Aunts.
Men are classified into four main categories: Commanders of the Faithful The ruling class. Because of their status, they are entitled to establish a patriarchal household with a Wife, a Handmaid if necessary, Marthas female servants and Guardians. Nick demonstrates a touch of irreverence by rolling The convex mirror looks like an eye to her. He walks away when she Veiling her face with the curtain, she sees the Commander go out to his car, with Nick standing by.
She imagines throwing something out the Though Offred turns the doctor down, she tries to act open, knowing that he has He unlocks the Bible from its box and sits down Offred imagines the bible pages feeling powder-paper makeup. Serena Joy silently cries. Serena Joy makes Offred leave immediately, Nick says he was coming to tell Offred to go see the Commander tomorrow. At the end of all these thoughts, Offred tells us that the Commander asked her to kiss him. Offred is powerfully aware of the illegality The Commander has posed himself impressively in front of the They play two games—she wins the first, then lets him Offred realizes she now has the power to ask the Commander for some things.
At their second meeting, Offred notes the almost masculine confidence of Before, she and probably the Commander too both managed to drift absent-mindedly through it, but now Offred felt, for the first She thinks that maybe Serena Joy even knows about it and lets it happen to She sees his hat is askew, which means Offred will see the Commander tonight.