The narrator of The Handmaid's Tale, Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, but she can remember the time "before", when she was married to Luke and had a daughter.
Offred's partner for shopping and other "acceptable activities". She is a member of an underground resistance organization, Mayday. When she is caught, she kills herself before she can be taken prisoner. Another woman is sent to replace her, assuming her name and erasing her existence.
Offred's best friend from "before", Moira is active in the feminist movement. Offred and Moira wind up in the same training center, but Moira escapes twice, the second time permanently.
Offred's husband before the inception of the Republic of Gilead. He left and divorced his first wife for Offred, which ultimately allowed the Republic to declare their union illegal, and gave the government the right to take their child.
One of the older, infertile women who agree to watch over and train the Handmaids rather than be sent to a Colony.
One of the older, infertile women who agree to watch over and train the Handmaids rather than be sent to a Colony. Aunt Elizabeth now presides over births.
The members of the army of the Republic of Gilead.
Another handmaid who Offred meets at the training center. She embraces the new regime out of fear, but threatens to become unhinged several times over the course of the novel. Eventually, she becomes known as "Ofwarren".
The most powerful of the Aunts, Aunt Lydia was in charge of the re-education program, and now presides over some of the Salvagings.
The "Martha" in Offred's placement. She is safe as long as she is physically able to do the cooking and cleaning.
A "Martha" like Rita, but lower-ranked. She is Martha's assistant.
Offred's Commander's wife. She used to be a singer on a television bible show, and later became a public advocate for women's return to the home.
One of the Guardians assigned to Offred's household. His principal responsibilities are taking care of the car and driving members of the household wherever they need to go.
The wing of the new government responsible for surveillance, espionage, and the detection of spies, unsuitables, and criminals.
Offred's mother, who is never named. She was active in the earlier feminist movement that secured women the right to have jobs, remain unmarried, and get abortions - all rights that have been taken away under the current regime.
One of the Aunts who come to the training center only for Testifying. She used to run a Weight Watchers' franchise in Iowa, making her an ideal candidate for Testifying.
One of the women at the training center.
Janine's (or Ofwarren's) baby girl, who later turns out to be an "unbaby".
A woman in the Center with Offred.
One of the women killed at the salvaging.
Professor Maryann Crescent Moon
A woman 150 years in the future who studies Caucasian Anthropology and is running the conference where Offred's tapes are being presented.
The keynote speaker at the Twelfth Symposium of the Gileadean Research Association, co-discoverer of Offred's tapes. He speaks about the "Problems of Authentication in Reference to The Handmaid's Tale.
Professor Knotly Wade
Co-discoverer of the Offred tapes.
A sociobiologist present at the Sons of Jacob meetings, who wrote an account of them in cipher in his diary.
Frederick R. Waterford
The most likely candidate for Offred's commander.
B. Frederick Judd
Another possible candidate for Offred's Commander.
The Handmaid’s Tale Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Handmaid’s Tale is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Atwood emphasises how changes in context affect behaviours and attitudes by repeating the phrase "Context is all" throughout the novel, establishing this precept as a motif (e.g., 144, 192). Playing the game of Scrabble with her...
Aunt Lydia taught that men are naturally obsessed with sex, "Men are sex machines, and not much more". Offred understood Aunt Lydia's point that women can use men's need for constant sex to their advantage: they can manipulate men.