Handmaids Tale Characters
Terms in this set (19)
The narrator and protagonist of The Handmaid's Tale. Belongs to the class of Handmaids, fertile women forced to bear children for elite, barren couples. The cruel physical and psychological burdens of her daily life in Gilead torment her and pervade her narrative.
The head of the household where Offred works as a Handmaid. He initiates an unorthodox relationship with Offred, secretly playing Scrabble with her in his study at night. He often seems a decent, well-meaning man, and Offred sometimes finds that she likes him in spite of herself.
Worked in pre-Gilead days as a gospel singer, then as an anti-feminist activist and crusader for "traditional values." In Gilead, she sits at the top of the female social ladder, yet she is desperately unhappy.
Offred's best friend from college. Rather than passively accept her fate as a Handmaid, she makes several escape attempts and finally manages to get away from the Red Center. However, she is caught before she can get out of Gilead.
Works at the "Red Center," the re‑education center where Offred and other women go for instruction before becoming Handmaids. Although she appears only in Offred's flashbacks, she and her instructions haunt Offred in her daily life.
A Guardian, a low-level officer of Gilead assigned to the Commander's home, where he works as a gardener and chauffeur. He and Offred have a sexual chemistry that they get to satisfy when Serena Joy orchestrates an encounter between them in an effort to get Offred pregnant.
Another Handmaid who is Offred's shopping partner and a member of the subversive "Mayday" underground. At the end of the novel, when she is found out, and she hangs herself rather than face torture and reveal the names of her co-conspirators.
Works as a servant in the Commander's household. She belongs to the class of Martha's, infertile women who do not qualify for the high status of Wives and so work in domestic roles.
Offred knows this person from their time at the Red Center. After she becomes a Handmaid, she takes the name Ofwarren. She has a baby, which makes her the envy of all the other Handmaids in the area, but the baby later turns out to be deformed—an "Unbaby"—and there are rumors that her doctor fathered the child.
In the days before Gilead, this person had an affair with Offred while he was married to another woman, then got a divorce and became Offred's husband. When Gilead comes to power, he attempts to escape to Canada with Offred and their daughter, but they are captured. He is separated from Offred, and the couple never see one another again.
One of the Aunts at the Red Center. Moira attacks her and steals her Aunt's uniform during her escape from the Red Center.
A Martha, or domestic servant, in the Commander's household. She seems less content with her lot than Cora, the other Martha working there.
Professor James Darcy Pieixoto
The guest speaker at the symposium that takes place in the epilogue to The Handmaid's Tale. He and another academic, working at a university in the year 2195, transcribed Offred's recorded narrative; his lecture details the historical significance of the story that we have just read.
Republic of Gilead
The setting of the novel and what used to be the United States
Professor Maryann Crescent Moon
She is one of the speakers at the end of the book, in the "Historical Notes" section. She lives in a post-Gilead world and introduces Professor Pieixoto at a seminar.
She is a Handmaid-in-training who wets the floor rather than leave an afternoon session of Testifying.
She is a Handmaid who is executed for an unnamed crime at a Salvaging during the summer of Offred's third year at the Commander's house.
A Handmaid who whispers her real name to Offred during the birthing ceremony, she offers to report any clues about Moira's whereabouts. Offred suppresses the urge to ask her about Luke.
According to Limpkin's diaries, he was a "hard-liner" Commander of the Eyes from Gilead's early period and was responsible for banning literacy for women. He masterminded the President's Day Massacre as well as the National Homelands and Jewish boatperson plans and used scapegoating through Particicution as a relief of tensions among Handmaids.
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