In this totalitarian state, women are under the domination of men. They cannot hold jobs, own property, or have bank accounts in their own names. Nor are they allowed to read or write. Fertile women who are political dissidents or who are in marriages considered outside the law of the church, such as second marriages after divorce, are conscripted to serve as concubines to the political leaders of Gilead, whose wives are often sterile or past the age of childbearing.
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Any child Offred conceives will be considered to belong to the Commander and Serena Joy. As Offred goes about her restrictive, limited life, she frequently thinks about the time before Gilead overthrew the American government.
She had been married to Luke, a man with whom she had previously had an affair.
They had a daughter together. Offred and Luke attempted to flee to Canada with their daughter but were caught. Offred was taken to the Red Centre to be trained as a Handmaid by the Aunts, officious women armed with cattle prods.
The Aunts insist that Handmaids are respected and protected in Gilead, in a way they had not been in the sinful and dangerous society before the revolution. Offred does not know what happened to Luke or their daughter. While Offred is at the Centre, her old friend Moira is also brought in for training.
Radical and rebellious, Moira manages to escape, although Offred does not know what happens to her after that. A fellow Handmaid, Ofglen, reveals that she is a member of a secret underground organization working to undermine Gilead.
Offred is relieved and excited that she is not alone. The other interruption comes when the Commander, against all protocol, tells her to come to his study. At the end of the evening, he asks her to kiss him, and she complies.
He lets her read his illicit collection of books, and she grows comfortable in his presence, despite the oppressive foundations of their relationship.
At his request, she kisses him goodnight at the end of each evening.
Because Offred has still not become pregnant, Serena Joy suggests that the Commander may be infertile, a scandalous thing to say, as in Gilead, only women are considered capable of infertility.
She proposes that Offred have sex with Nick in order to conceive a child. The Commander takes Offred to a private room and initiates sex, deluding himself that this is something that Offred actually wants.
Offred struggles to fake any engagement with the act. She begins regularly sneaking out to sleep with Nick and quickly becomes consumed by this relationship. Although Ofglen asks her to spy on the Commander for the resistance, Offred ignores her, not willing to lose her new relationship with Nick.
When the Handmaids take part in the brutal execution of a man accused of rape, Ofglen fights her way to the front and kicks the man in the head before the others can tear him apart.
When Offred confronts her about this, Ofglen explains that the man was not a rapist but part of the resistance and she knocked him unconscious to spare him from the pain of being mobbed to death. Perhaps because of this, Ofglen is suddenly replaced by a new woman who is also called Ofglen, because she is assigned to a Commander named Glen.
While on a walk, this Ofglen tells Offred that the previous woman hanged herself when she saw a black van coming to take her away. A black van pulls up outside, and Nick enters her room. He claims that the van is actually part of the resistance movement and has come to save her.
She is led out, past the frightened Commander and furious Serena Joy. Offred does not know whether the van will take her to freedom or to prison and death, but she has little choice but to go with them. The professor giving the lecture explains that the story was found on cassette tapes that the narrator likely recorded after she escaped.Critical Essays Literary Analysis of The Handmaid's Tale Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List A one-of-a-kind tour de force, Margaret Atwood's futuristic The Handmaid's Tale refuses categorization into a single style, slant, or genre.
The Handmaid’s Tale Summary and Study Guide SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.
This page guide for “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 15 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel by Margaret Atwood that was first published in Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America. Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving.
The Handmaid's Tale is written by Margaret Atwood and was originally published by McClelland and Stewart in The novel is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Handmaid's Tale explores themes of a new totalitarian theocratic state society that is terrifying and horrific. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America.
Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving.