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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. First published in 1985, the novel is set in a future America that has been taken over by Christian fundamentalists, called the Republic of Gilead. The story is told from the perspective of a woman character known only as Offred (Of Fred).

In this future, women are classified by their various roles and named only by their owner: Ofglen, Offred, etc. The Handmaid's TaleOffred is a handmaid, a concubine kept because the upper class wives cannot bear children. Her sole purpose is to bear children for The Commander. Other classes of women include the Marthas, older women reduced to domestic servants.

Although the Commander is only supposed to have sex with Offred during a special ceremony, he soon begins an illicit affair with her, introducing her to a secret world full of contraband. The Commander’s wife, Serena Joy, also arranges for Offred to have sex with their driver, Nick, in an effort for her to get pregnant. Nick, however, turns out to be part of the underground resistance, the Mayday. Offred is taken away by the secret police, but Nick assures her that they are the resistance.

The novel ends with a postscript set further in the future, relating how a professor studying the Gilead Period came across Offred’s story, that she recorded on cassette tapes.

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