The Handmaid’s Tale


Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale Characters


The novel’s protagonist and first-person narrator, Handmaid of the Commander and Serena Joy, former wife of Luke, and lover of Nick. We never learn her real name (Offred means “Of Fred,” her… read analysis of Offred

The Commander

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 a Midwestern bank president.” Though he… read analysis of The Commander

Serena Joy

Also known as the Commander’s Wife, she is unable to have children and therefore requires Offred’s services. Before Gilead, she was a singer who became famous on TV for her emotional Christian music… read analysis of Serena Joy


The Commander’s driver and Serena Joy’s helper in the garden, and Offred’s lover. Nick’s official position is Guardian, and he seems to be low-ranking because he hasn’t been assigned a woman. From… read analysis of Nick


Offred’s pre-Gilead husband and father of her daughter. He was previously married and had a long affair with Offred before divorcing his first wife. Though Offred passes a lot of time remembering him… read analysis of Luke
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Offred’s best friend in college, a brave, opinionated feminist lesbian whom Offred encounters again at the Rachel and Leah Center. After one failed attempt, she manages to escape the Center and move along the… read analysis of Moira
Minor Characters
Offred’s Mother
A radical feminist before Gilead, she marched at abortion rights and anti-rape protests and burnt pornography. Offred used to resent her showy, fanatical behavior, but now she regrets their difficult relationship. She ends up cleaning toxic waste in the Colonies. We never learn her real name.
Offred’s Daughter
Offred’s daughter with Luke was five during their failed escape attempt, when Gileadean authorities removed her to place with another family. During the time of the novel, she would be about eight. Like Offred’s mother, we never learn her name.
Aunt Lydia
The Aunt in charge at the Rachel and Leah Center and the Woman’s Salvaging. Her opinions and sayings constantly run through Offred’s head, evidence of effective brainwashing.
Offred’s shopping partner and a member of the Mayday Resistance who suddenly disappears.
Also known as Ofwarren, a Handmaid from Offred’s class at the Rachel and Leah Center. She gets hysterical easily. She’s criticized and broken down at the Center, but Offred has no sympathy for her.
A Martha (household servant and cook) at the household of the Commander and Serena Joy. She thinks of Offred as a slut and is generally unkind.
A Martha, along with Rita. She does less cooking and more general chores, and is friendlier to Offred. She discovered the previous Handmaid’s death.
The Previous Handmaid
Offred never meets the previous Handmaid of Serena Joy and the Commander, but her presence looms over the house. She scratched an encouraging slogan in the closet, but hanged herself from the ceiling.
Professor Pieixoto
A professor at Cambridge University in 2195 and a specialist in 20th and 21st century history. The keynote speaker in the Historical Notes.
The Doctor
An obstetrician/gynecologist-type doctor with brown eyes and hair, who checks on Offred’s sexual health, then offers to try to impregnate her.
Aunt Helena
Helps during Janine’s testifying at the Rachel and Leah Center. She used to lead Weight Watchers’, so she’s good at encouraging testimonials.
Aunt Elizabeth
She taught Gyn Ed at the Rachel and Leah Center, and is a sort of midwife who helps with Janine’s birth. The Aunt that Moira threatens and ties up in the furnace room during her second escape attempt.
Aunt Sara
An aunt at the Rachel and Leah center, who watches over the women in the center while carrying a cattle prod.