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ElectricBoogaloo

Blessed Be: Questions from Non-Book Readers, Answers from Book Readers

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We have similar threads like this for Game of Thrones and Outlander, so I thought it might be useful for The Handmaid's Tale too. Sometimes non-book readers have questions about the books but don't want to be spoiled, so here is the place to ask!

Book readers, please use the quote function to quote the question you are answering and then put your answers under the spoiler tag. This allows non-book readers to find out the answers to their questions without being spoiled about everything else asked in the thread.

For example:

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What is Offred's "before" name?

 

Spoiler

June

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What is Offred's "before" name?

Book answer

Spoiler

Actually, it's not June. Like the second Mrs. DeWinter, she doesn't have a name. Or rather, she does but she never reveals it. Readers have speculated that it's June because during a passage that takes place in the Red Center, there's a recitation of names and the only name that that narrator (the Handmaid of the story) doesn't subsequently attach to a person as the story goes on is June—because why would a first-person narrator speak her own name. Hence the speculation. Her daughter, here as Hannah, is never identified by name either, IIRC. I liked it better that way but it's a minor quibble.

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I have read the book but 15 years ago so I forget a lot of specifics. With Ofglen; was her background as detailed in the book. I couldn't help but feel that her position as the series starts is better than that of most of the other handmaids and I don't remember having that feeling about her when I read the book. If she could ever escape Gilead, 

Spoiler

she could relatively easily reunite with her family as they are free and safe. Offred and most likely the others don't have that security.

On the other hand my memory of her role in the violence in the first episode was different.
 

Spoiler

Did she not essentially euthanise the man who was executed by handmaid frenzy, by dealing him a swift lethal blow because rather than a rapist, he was a resistance fighter.

That's stuck in my head about that scene but I don't know if I've imagined it or there will be second similar scene to come.

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18 minutes ago, AllyB said:

I have read the book but 15 years ago so I forget a lot of specifics. With Ofglen; was her background as detailed in the book. I couldn't help but feel that her position as the series starts is better than that of most of the other handmaids and I don't remember having that feeling about her when I read the book.

Spoiler

We get nothing about Ofglen's background in the book, other than that she's a member of the resistance.  By the time Offred is playing Scrabble at night with the Commander and then involved with Nick, she's so absorbed in her own thoughts she admits that she tunes a lot of what Offred says out.  So we never actually learn what she might have been telling her or anything personal that Ofglen might have offered up about herself.

Quote

On the other hand my memory of her role in the violence in the first episode was different.

Your memory is correct.

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15 minutes ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

In the book, is the doctor who offers to impregnant Offred portrayed less ambiguously? Is he more obviously creepier/nicer?

Spoiler

From memory of the book, he is either eventually caught, or known about among the wives or others.  He may even resort to some kind of blackmail about it all.  One thing I remember FOR SURE is that he's impregnated other handmaids. 

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In the book, is the doctor who offers to impregnant Offred portrayed less ambiguously? Is he more obviously creepier/nicer?

Spoiler

 

His actions are creepier, but Offred seems less freaked out by them.

"I hate to see what they put you through," he murmurs. It's genuine, genuine sympathy; and yet he's enjoying this, sympathy and all. His eyes are moist with compassion, his hand is moving on me, nervously and with impatience. "It's too dangerous," I say. "No. I can't." The penalty is death. But they have to catch you in the act, with two witnesses. What are the odds, is the room bugged, who's waiting just outside the door?Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale (p. 61). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

 

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No one's asked these questions here yet, but I'm going to ask and answer them anyway for those who may be curious.  They have been brought up in episode threads.

What's with the jarring music?

1.  Not very spoiler-y answer: 

Spoiler

The sometimes jarring music included in the book in a significant way.

2.  VERY spoiler-y answer: 

Spoiler

At the end of the book is an epilogue where scholarly types in England are studying Gilead, which no longer exists.  They find tapes made by Offred, and she uses music at the beginning to hide what they really are, her memories and tale.  The handmaid's tale.

There have been several questions about race in the episode threads, including the oddness of the Moira as a black Aunt in her disguise.

Spoiler

In the book, there is overt racism, there would be no black handmaids, and probably not adopted black children either.  Gilead was partly founded to increase the white birthrate.  People of color do not live in Gilead, they are shipped to the Children of Ham camps in mid west, or to the colonies.

Another asked in the episode thread.  Is the whole world like Gilead now with the low birthrate, etc?  This answer will also include the issue of infertility.

Spoiler

No.  The low birthrate is caused by many things, pollution, toxic swamps of contamination from over use of herbicides and pesticides, earthquakes and other disasters from nuclear waste/power plant failures.  Abortion, birth control, and women putting off child bearing until they are older are also part of it.  In addition they developed a sterility drug that backfired.  It was based on mumps and they contaminated caviar with it, but couldn't control the spread of the disease among men.  There is also an untreatable form of Syphilis.  Presumably birth rates were not affected world wide, especially in third world countries, which is part of the reason this is a white men's project for white people.  Countries without power plants or their disasters or who limited and controlled waste from pesticides would also have less of a problem.

Edited by Umbelina
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1 hour ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

Who was the previous Offred in the book?

Spoiler


In the book, the previous Offred is talked about pretty much in the same vein as they are doing on the show.

We never learn her real name, and Offred/June is never able to talk to anyone who might have known her, such as other handmaids. Mostly Offred/June learns about her from the Commander during their scrabble games, as the show is also depicting.

He doesn't say very much either, just answers a few questions, telling her that the former handmaid committed suicide and that is why they took the  hanging light fixture out of her room. He doesn't dwell on the previous Offred though, as with most things with this commander he isn't going to take responsibility for her death, for using her until her usefulness ran out, just as he is now doing with Offred/June.

Basically previous Offred is more like a ghost than anything else. Her presence is still felt in the house, the darkness left behind by a woman so despondent, so thoroughly defeated and betrayed that she only saw one way out.

 

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RE: The doctor

Spoiler

I'm pretty sure in the book they heavily imply, or outright state that the doctor is who got Janine (Ofwarren)pregnant.

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I haven't read the book so forgive me if I don't understand this, but one element that seems to be missing is any organized uprising by the good men of the country in the face of the initial curtailment of women's rights.   Are we to believe that all the fathers, brothers and husbands reacted the same as their female relations were turned overnight into property?  "Aw shucks, don't worry, honey, let the menfolk look after you from now on?"   We saw just one man get shot in the protest but where were all the rest?   It begs credibility that all the men would just shrug and say "whatever."


 

Spoiler

 

What's left of the real good men in Gilead head the Resistance. But during Gilead's formation, many were slaughtered by the new "military", those who would soon become known as "The Eyes". They often ended up as Luke did, either killed trying to save their  families or they were taken away in black vans never to be seen again.

By the time Gilead leaders take away the women's jobs and money, people have frankly given up all their liberties. They have done away with the constitution and instilled fear in everyone that America is under attack from terrorists so a lot of people who might have before stood up for what is right no longer are brave enough. A lot of men didn't march because they knew the risk, that basically it would be a death march and so they stayed indoors.

The lesson that I felt the book was trying to impart was one of how dangerous complacency truly is, how easy it is for people to turn a blind eye to injustice, to not realize that when someone else's rights are infringed upon their own rights will soon end up on the chopping block as well.

 

So what they've shown in the show is the result of a lot of people being too afraid, too cowardly, and too gullible to do what's right, even if it means dying.

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Hi. I liked the first 3 eps a lot but this 4th ep left me with 2 many questions...it didn't sustain the realism of the others

Not gagging "Aunt" Elizabeth seemed very contrived. The timing was also off to me..  Dr appt but return at NIGHT....squeeze in a failed Ceremony then at 9 meet the Commander in his study?

I am not a big series watcher cause my logical or nit picky mind gets in the way. I start wondering....who stocks the grocery shelves... who keeps city services running....hospitals? Schools? Where are the children....teenagers? 

Who designs and makes the clothes? 

It seems most of the men are military..police...toting guns....but how will they support a home for wife handmaid...kitchen worker and chauffeur?  Do they even have wives? 

Enquiring minds want to know. 

 

 

Spoiler

 

The people who take care of Gilead, who work in Gilead, are basically the people who are left that fall outside of having a position of power within the new society. They are those who didn't tick off "The Eyes" or never managed to flee. They have kept their heads down and tried to assimilate into this new world and they are given jobs as the leaders see fit.

There are no business or office, informational, educational, or technological jobs left, and many of those who had them were slaughtered anyway. The only work that is left to be done are upkeep jobs such as stocking the few stores that are allowed to run, cleaning the streets, and working the fields and fisheries for food, all men's work at this point to be noted as women aren't allowed to work any kind of "real job" anymore.

Aside from the clinic where the Handmaids are taken for their checkups with the doctor, there aren't many other mentions of medical buildings such as hospitals. It does not seem as if Gilead is a society that looks to medical science very much, or science in general at all.

The "Red Center" where the Handmaids are trained was once the local high school and what was once Harvard University, in the book, is now where they conduct hearings and hang up the bodies of "criminals" to warn citizens to behave and follow the new laws or else they too will soon be swinging in the breeze., Taking those examples into consideration, it does not appear that schools survived the Regime's takeover. Women no longer need to be educated, according to them, and it appears they would much rather have men ready and able to fight for their cause than be concerned with higher learning.

There are no department stores or malls, basically the clothes are made from the same, singular, source though there isn't much said about who the clothing makers are aside from those who work for the Regime, but again they would be men only.

The design of outfits that everyone wears would have been the brain child of the Regime leaders, as they literally want every single part of Gilead to indicate a certain "status". So the Handmaids' blood red garments are worn "only" by that group, the Wives dress in their outfits of blue, the Marthas' have their domesticated uniforms of green that they all wear. No one is allowed to depart from whatever social position they've been put into, and they cannot wear clothing meant for someone else.

The men you see patrolling with guns are called "Guardians", basically low ranking foot soldiers that the Regime uses to keep everyone in line, especially the Handmaids. They do not have wives or families. Offred describes them in the book as men who are too young, too old, or just generally too useless to be apart of the official Gilead army, but they can hold a gun and do menial labor so they are considered useful.

If, somehow, they manage to prove themselves better than most they are given a promotion to become what are called "Angels", high ranking guards, who can earn permission to be given a wife, and even a handmaid if necessary. 

And lastly the absence of children throughout the book is one of the most noticeable, and frightening, parts to the book. This place, The Republic of Gilead, was supposedly created to produce children, to deal with the falling fertility rate, to start new life. But we see very little mentioned about the next generation; there are no descriptions of little ones running around in yards, playing and laughing, or children walking the streets hand in hand with their parents. Like many people seem to become in this desolate place, children are more ghost like than real now. They are faint mentions of something that once existed but now there si no sign of them. And as far as babies go, when a baby is born they rarely live long past birth, and those are the few births that actually make it to term.

 

Sorry if I went a bit long winded here heh, but the book certainly covers everything in far better detail, I just tried to cliff note the main points.

Edited by AnswersWanted
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2 hours ago, AnswersWanted said:

 

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The people who take care of Gilead, who work in Gilead, are basically the people who are left that fall outside of having a position of power within the new society. They are those who didn't tick off "The Eyes" or never managed to flee. They have kept their heads down and tried to assimilate into this new world and they are given jobs as the leaders see fit.

There are no business or office, informational, educational, or technological jobs left, and many of those who had them were slaughtered anyway. The only work that is left to be done are upkeep jobs such as stocking the few stores that are allowed to run, cleaning the streets, and working the fields and fisheries for food, all men's work at this point to be noted as women aren't allowed to work any kind of "real job" anymore.

Aside from the clinic where the Handmaids are taken for their checkups with the doctor, there aren't many other mentions of medical buildings such as hospitals. It does not seem as if Gilead is a society that looks to medical science very much, or science in general at all.

The "Red Center" where the Handmaids are trained was once the local high school and what was once Harvard University, in the book, is now where they conduct hearings and hang up the bodies of "criminals" to warn citizens to behave and follow the new laws or else they too will soon be swinging in the breeze., Taking those examples into consideration, it does not appear that schools survived the Regime's takeover. Women no longer need to be educated, according to them, and it appears they would much rather have men ready and able to fight for their cause than be concerned with higher learning.

There are no department stores or malls, basically the clothes are made from the same, singular, source though there isn't much said about who the clothing makers are aside from those who work for the Regime, but again they would be men only.

The design of outfits that everyone wears would have been the brain child of the Regime leaders, as they literally want every single part of Gilead to indicate a certain "status". So the Handmaids' blood red garments are worn "only" by that group, the Wives dress in their outfits of blue, the Marthas' have their domesticated uniforms of green that they all wear. No one is allowed to depart from whatever social position they've been put into, and they cannot wear clothing meant for someone else.

The men you see patrolling with guns are called "Guardians", basically low ranking foot soldiers that the Regime uses to keep everyone in line, especially the Handmaids. They do not have wives or families. Offred describes them in the book as men who are too young, too old, or just generally too useless to be apart of the official Gilead army, but they can hold a gun and do menial labor so they are considered useful.

If, somehow, they manage to prove themselves better than most they are given a promotion to become what are called "Angels", high ranking guards, who can earn permission to be given a wife, and even a handmaid if necessary. 

And lastly the absence of children throughout the book is one of the most noticeable, and frightening, parts to the book. This place, The Republic of Gilead, was supposedly created to produce children, to deal with the falling fertility rate, to start new life. But we see very little mentioned about the next generation; there are no descriptions of little ones running around in yards, playing and laughing, or children walking the streets hand in hand with their parents. Like many people seem to become in this desolate place, children are more ghost like than real now. They are faint mentions of something that once existed but now there si no sign of them. And as far as babies go, when a baby is born they rarely live long past birth, and those are the few births that actually make it to term.

 

Sorry if I went a bit long winded here heh, but the book certainly covers everything in far better detail, I just tried to cliff note the main points.

Thanks a bunch..  I read it when it first came out...I even saw the original movie which was a dud I thought but I have forgotten much of it I guess. 

The time line and kids still bothers me ...how many sterile..infertile ...years ...? 

Surely there would be teens .. I think this is more glaring on screen than in book. The tv series is good but I wish it had a bit more explaining 

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54 minutes ago, Stillhoping said:

Thanks a bunch..  I read it when it first came out...I even saw the original movie which was a dud I thought but I have forgotten much of it I guess. 

The time line and kids still bothers me ...how many sterile..infertile ...years ...? 

Surely there would be teens .. I think this is more glaring on screen than in book. The tv series is good but I wish it had a bit more explaining 

 

No problems, my pleasure. I tried to remember it all myself but don't quote me if "The Eyes" come round knocking...

I think that the tv show might very well tackle this subject more in depth than the book was able to, certainly it'd provide them with plenty of material, especially now that they have been renewed for a second season. I'd imagine that it's very likely they will address exactly how bad this "plague of infertility" actually was, what exactly caused it, and why does it seem that the Regime is more so fighting to make things even worse than better.

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It's ironic, considering the series makes a mockery of Christianity, yet the show seems to have no hesitation about that. 

(from the episode thread)

Spoiler

The rulers of Gilead have pretty much rewritten the bible, and since they don't allow women to read, and only the elite men, who read the new Bible to their women, that further perverts it.  From what I remember it is almost all old-testament now, so Christianity doesn't really play into their religion in a big way.  I don't think new testament writings were ever mentioned in the book, except about them basically being excluded from their altered bible.

I hope another book reader answers in more depth if they remember more.

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38 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

(from the episode thread)

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The rulers of Gilead have pretty much rewritten the bible, and since they don't allow women to read, and only the elite men, who read the new Bible to their women, that further perverts it.  From what I remember it is almost all old-testament now, so Christianity doesn't really play into their religion in a big way.  I don't think new testament writings were ever mentioned in the book, except about them basically being excluded from their altered bible.

I hope another book reader answers in more depth if they remember more.

"Blessed are the meek," a recurring theme, expressed by Aunt Lydia herself (in the series), is a direct quote from Christ's "Sermon On the Mount."   New Testament.

As I mentioned in the episode thread, I haven't read the book so can only judge by the series.

Edited by millennium

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Good catch.

In the book however

Spoiler

the Old Testament dominates and they are using a bible they've re-written.  That particular quote would have been useful to them, so it makes sense they would include that. 

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2 hours ago, Stillhoping said:

Surely there would be teens .. I think this is more glaring on screen than in book. The tv series is good but I wish it had a bit more explaining 

Regarding teenagers in Gilead, I was recently reading the wiki for the book and it said

Spoiler

There is a class called "Daughters", made up of young girls, I believe of all the different classes (don't quote me on that, though). They wear white dresses before they are married off. It jogged a vague and possibly incorrect memory from the novel in which I think Offred witnessed (or heard about) a mass marriage of young Daughters to other young men. Assumingly they young men and women were teens or not far removed from being teens. Also, another class of women are Ecnowives, married to lower class men and they were tricolored dresses. Hopefully the show will open up the society of Gilead a little more beyond the Handmaid's and Commanders/Commanders' wives.

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Just now, Umbelina said:

Good catch.

In the book however

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the Old Testament dominates and they are using a bible they've re-written.  That particular quote would have been useful to them, so it makes sense they would include that. 

Either way, the story goes out of its way to villify Christianity.   I read an interview with Atwood where she defends against charges of being anti-Christian by explaining that the folks of Gilead aren't really Christians because their values are warped, but that seems like semantics.   Few will make that leap.   

I don't really care that the show is anti-Christian.  God's a big boy, He can take it, and besides it's not about Him but about the fanatics who do harm in His name.   It just seems hypocritical to me that the show is tiptoeing on eggshells when it comes to race and other religions but has no compunction about making Christianity the Big Bad.

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I don't see it that way, perhaps because I have read the book, and the book makes it very clear

Spoiler

that they are not using the bible as we know it, that it is completely rewritten and adapted by the leaders of Gilead to keep people in line.  They are not even allowed to read it, or read at all, just read altered excerpts by men.  This is early in the regime, so some do remember the "real" bible.  The Aunt slapping Offred who quoted back from the real bible kind of showed that a bit. 

Edited by Umbelina
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Also...

Spoiler

Remember that Catholics are also condemned/killed in Gilead, and their churches are destroyed. It's not Christianity in general that the story criticizes. It's the rigid, oppressive, violently misogynist, fundamentalist Protestantism that America was (in some ways ways) founded on and that really took off in the 19th century. That way of thinking is something that's still attacking women and progressive values today, and it's definitely part of the theme of the story.

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18 hours ago, millennium said:

"Blessed are the meek," a recurring theme, expressed by Aunt Lydia herself (in the series), is a direct quote from Christ's "Sermon On the Mount."   New Testament.

As I mentioned in the episode thread, I haven't read the book so can only judge by the series.

Many of Christ's words in the NT are echoed or adapted from the OT.  "Blessed are the meek" can be derived from Psalm 37.  

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17 hours ago, Slovenly Muse said:

I think the purpose of Gilead with regard to Christianity is to look at the ways in which religious extremists around the world have used their cultures' holy books to justify oppressive regimes, and what that might look like in America. Like, Gilead is a thought-experiment: What would it be like if Christian extremists used the Bible to justify a totalitarian regime in America, the same way the Taliban used the Qur'an to justify their regime in Afghanistan (for example)? The practices of the regime are an utter perversion of the true meaning of the texts, but these things happen all over the world. It's not a criticism of Christianity, or a suggestion that this kind of oppression is the natural conclusion of a religious path - it's about the ways in which power-hungry individuals can misuse religion as a tool to harness the support of the very people they seek to oppress. A story not about God, but about humanity.

Sorry for the double post, but man....  THIS.  So THIS.  Took my thoughts right out of my brain and stated them eloquently here.  

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53 minutes ago, LuvizBlind said:
19 hours ago, millennium said:

"Blessed are the meek," a recurring theme, expressed by Aunt Lydia herself (in the series), is a direct quote from Christ's "Sermon On the Mount."   New Testament.

As I mentioned in the episode thread, I haven't read the book so can only judge by the series.

Many of Christ's words in the NT are echoed or adapted from the OT.  "Blessed are the meek" can be derived from Psalm 37.

I think the most telling thing about Aunt Lydia's use of that quotation is that, according to Offred, the Aunts who say it NEVER  finish with "for they shall inherit the earth." Regardless of whether or not the NT still exists, it's clear that all its lessons about justice and humility have been stripped, leaving only the parts that Gilead can use to crush people into submission, while making it appear the tyranny is coming directly from God, not the men in charge.

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Exactly.  While the scene with Offred wasn't easy to watch, I cheered for her when she finished it and said "I remember."   

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On 5/5/2017 at 8:13 AM, Ripley68 said:

RE: The doctor

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I'm pretty sure in the book they heavily imply, or outright state that the doctor is who got Janine (Ofwarren)pregnant.

Spoiler

The books says "she used a doctor", but it's not clear whether it was the same doctor, as I remember it.

 

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29 minutes ago, MV713 said:

I haven't had time to read everyone's comments about each episode.  I read the book in 1986 but I forget and just wondered a couple of things:

1.How did one become a "commander's wife"?  Seems they would want the fertile women as wives.  Also, are the Martha's not fertile?

2. They have mentioned a few places in the series so far, but does anyone know where this is supposed to be?

Thank you...

1.  The ones we know about? 

Spoiler

Already were Commander's Wives, the commanders being the people who organized the coup and overthrew the constitution of the USA, killed the president and congress, etc.  The Marthas are not fertile, as far as their limited science knows.  In reality the men are probably sterile, but that isn't an allowed thought.  Most doctors and scientists were killed, blamed, villains.  They don't like science or education in Gilead.  In other words, the wives haven't had children so are assumed barren, and they no longer get to have sex either, so even if it's really the husband, it would be death to cheat.

2.  Gilead

Spoiler

is the continental USA.  Alaska and Hawaii broke off and the capital of the current USA is in Anchorage.  Offred's story is set in the Northeastern states. 

2.  (More detail)  The colonies

Spoiler

and the Children of Ham camps are somewhere out there.  We only know fruit and cotton are picked in some, nuclear waste is cleaned in others (they mention California power plant/earthquake disasters specifically) and the Children of Ham (people of color) camps are around Nebraska.

Someone else may have more detail for you.

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I am not sure if this is book talk or movie talk but something occurred to me when I was watching the ceremony.

What if the Handmaid fell asleep, yawned or even snored? I am just saying as a passive aggressive form of protest.  They cannot fault her since she is only suppose to be there as a walking womb. The commander isn't suppose to desire her either - she's just a tool.  
Random thoughts. This show is awesome. Much better than the old movie. 

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3 minutes ago, greekmom said:

I am not sure if this is book talk or movie talk but something occurred to me when I was watching the ceremony.

What if the Handmaid fell asleep, yawned or even snored? I am just saying as a passive aggressive form of protest.  They cannot fault her since she is only suppose to be there as a walking womb. The commander isn't suppose to desire her either - she's just a tool.  
Random thoughts. This show is awesome. Much better than the old movie. 

Spoiler

The wives were allowed to abuse the Handmaids, and they didn't need much reason or provocation. And Handmaids only had three chances to "work out" with a household; if that didn't happen, they were sent to the "Colonies" to clean up toxic waste and die a horrible death. So it was in their own interest not to do anything passive (or otherwise) aggressive.

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One thing I forgot to mention... did anyone notice in the show that none of the wives have any pets? There are no cats, no dogs, no pet birds in Gilead. So besides praying for a baby all day, what the heck do the wives do? They have the Marthas to cook and clean.  There is no livestock for them to care of. No gardens. They can't read and I guess television doesn't exist except to advise of updates on the war?!  No wonder they torture the Handmaidens -- nothing else to really do.

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16 minutes ago, greekmom said:

One thing I forgot to mention... did anyone notice in the show that none of the wives have any pets? There are no cats, no dogs, no pet birds in Gilead. So besides praying for a baby all day, what the heck do the wives do? They have the Marthas to cook and clean.  There is no livestock for them to care of. No gardens. They can't read and I guess television doesn't exist except to advise of updates on the war?!  No wonder they torture the Handmaidens -- nothing else to really do.

Serena Joy

Spoiler

knits endless intricate scarves for the "Angels" (soldiers) which Offred thinks are probably useless, never sent, unwound to be knitted again.

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Just now, Umbelina said:

Serena Joy

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knits endless intricate scarves for the "Angels" (soldiers) which Offred thinks are probably useless, never sent, unwound to be knitted again.

That's right I totally forgot that part.

Geez. I'm shocked SJ hasn't hung her own self from extreme boredom in this brave new world. 

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2 hours ago, Umbelina said:

Serena Joy

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knits endless intricate scarves for the "Angels" (soldiers) which Offred thinks are probably useless, never sent, unwound to be knitted again.

Spoiler

She also has a garden that she spends a lot of time working in, but we haven't seen that on the show so far.

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It's been a long long time since I read the book, and they haven't explained how Serena Joy came to be in this series, but in the book I thought Offred remembered her as being kind of a Tammy Faye in her previous life. A tv preachers wife or some kind of evangelical singer. If they brought that here she would have had a head start on the religious nonsense. 

What are the options for the men like the driver? If you're a regular dude you're not worthy of a breeder type of woman so are they allowed to date Martha's or aunts? 

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3 hours ago, nachomama said:

What are the options for the men like the driver? If you're a regular dude you're not worthy of a breeder type of woman so are they allowed to date Martha's or aunts? 

According to the book,

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men like drivers and guards don't have women "assigned" to them, and since any non-procreational sex is forbidden in Gilead, they essentially don't get to have any contact with women.

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14 hours ago, greekmom said:

One thing I forgot to mention... did anyone notice in the show that none of the wives have any pets? There are no cats, no dogs, no pet birds in Gilead. So besides praying for a baby all day, what the heck do the wives do? They have the Marthas to cook and clean.  There is no livestock for them to care of. No gardens. They can't read and I guess television doesn't exist except to advise of updates on the war?!  No wonder they torture the Handmaidens -- nothing else to really do.

I hadn't even noticed that there were no pets. Huh. Have you seen Children of Men? In it all of humanity has become infertile, and it leads to a breakdown in civilization. One of the most shocking scenes for me was when the main character is walking down a street in London, and he sees a couple with a baby carriage with other people crowded around happily cooing and exclaiming. As the camera pulls closer you see that the carriage contains a momma cat and her kittens. Just blew me away, but then I thought sure, why not.

Atwood is telling a different story, of course, but now I wonder if there are no pets for the women to lavish affection on because that's one more thing denied them by the patriarchy or if Atwood just decided that there was already enough going on in the story.

Edited by maystone · Reason: clarity
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I haven't read the book yet (it's been sitting on Mt. TBR for years). I was going to wait until the series was over to read it, but now I'm considering reading along as the show airs each week. Does the show follow the book pretty linearly? Meaning can I read the first few chapters and not get spoiled?

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1 hour ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

I haven't read the book yet (it's been sitting on Mt. TBR for years). I was going to wait until the series was over to read it, but now I'm considering reading along as the show airs each week. Does the show follow the book pretty linearly? Meaning can I read the first few chapters and not get spoiled?

The show jumps around a bit with the book's timeline. The Particicution and introduction of the new Ofglen happen much later in the book; the doctor's visit happens earlier, etc. 

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So was Moira recaptured later and sent to the Colonies? Or do we not trust what Janine said? Confused on the timeline.

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22 minutes ago, ferretrick said:

So was Moira recaptured later and sent to the Colonies? Or do we not trust what Janine said? Confused on the timeline.

Spoiler

In the book she was recaptured and was given the choice between going to the Colonies and working in a nightclub/brothel called Jezebel's (while the "good men" who run Gilead forbade recreational sex for everyone else, they made sure they could still get some themselves). Offred runs into her when the Commander takes her to that club one night.

On the show, the Red Center flashbacks are 2.5 - 3 years before the present day scenes. So the scene when Janine told Offred that Moira is dead, that's more than two years since Moira escaped.

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The one part of the book that never made sense to me was how Gilead came into being given the sheer size of the US and the diversity of the population.  The number of people that they would have had to have, when their movement and planning was underground, not just to pull off the coup, but to basically enslave American society into this new Gilead world order would have had to have been massive.  And to think that so many people would have believed in this is what I find most horrifying.  In many ways I wish Margaret Atwood would write a prequel to the book.  We get glimpses in the story, we get some technicalities, but we don't get the how the belief system in society got to a point where this would gain enough traction.  

For example - they let go every single woman from the workforce and froze every single bank account in the same day.  And while doing that, they dispatched the Gilead army to every workplace in America to ensure that everybody fell in line and nobody was disruptive.  Think about the number of people that would be necessary to do such a thing.  They didn't go town by town.  It was all at once.  How?  

Or perhaps I'm forgetting a part of the story, I probably haven't read the book in a good 10-12 years.   Maybe this is where fiction and potential reality blur. 

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1 hour ago, Shangrilala said:

The one part of the book that never made sense to me was how Gilead came into being given the sheer size of the US and the diversity of the population.  The number of people that they would have had to have, when their movement and planning was underground, not just to pull off the coup, but to basically enslave American society into this new Gilead world order would have had to have been massive.  And to think that so many people would have believed in this is what I find most horrifying.  In many ways I wish Margaret Atwood would write a prequel to the book.  We get glimpses in the story, we get some technicalities, but we don't get the how the belief system in society got to a point where this would gain enough traction.  

For example - they let go every single woman from the workforce and froze every single bank account in the same day.  And while doing that, they dispatched the Gilead army to every workplace in America to ensure that everybody fell in line and nobody was disruptive.  Think about the number of people that would be necessary to do such a thing.  They didn't go town by town.  It was all at once.  How?  

Or perhaps I'm forgetting a part of the story, I probably haven't read the book in a good 10-12 years.   Maybe this is where fiction and potential reality blur. 

The book and the show have both gone into it a bit.  I don't think I have to spoiler tag this because I'm pretty sure it was said on the show.

They blamed terrorists.  Congress and the President were all killed in a coup.  They (Offred's commander and his pals) took over for "security" and people didn't fight it much, most of the constitution and our freedom was suspended at first, and then permanently,  in the name of security.  News was obviously controlled and no one really completely understood what was really happening.  Paper money was already gone, everything was cards, so it was very very easy to freeze all the female money and turn it over to men, basically the push of a computer button since their accounts were all marked with an F for female.  Firing them, same thing.  Once regular protections were gone, they could do anything.  They controlled the new army/militia/angels. 

All for our own protection from those damn terrorists you know.

It was a planned, well thought out coup, carried out easily.  Protesters existed, but as we saw on the show they were mowed down, murdered which put a stop to that pretty fast.  Kent State en masse.  Freedom to assemble, protest, etc. was all "suspended" (ended forever really) in the name of security.

Alaska and Hawaii became the new USA, with Anchorage as capital.  The Gilead people didn't really control the entire country I don't think, which is why they keep referring to fighting and "the colonies."  So, controlled yes, but by war, it didn't all look like Boston where we see Offred and this show set.

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18 hours ago, Umbelina said:

They blamed terrorists.  Congress and the President were all killed in a coup.  They (Offred's commander and his pals) took over for "security" and people didn't fight it much, most of the constitution and our freedom was suspended at first, and then permanently,  in the name of security.  News was obviously controlled and no one really completely understood what was really happening.  Paper money was already gone, everything was cards, so it was very very easy to freeze all the female money and turn it over to men, basically the push of a computer button since their accounts were all marked with an F for female.  Firing them, same thing.  Once regular protections were gone, they could do anything.  They controlled the new army/militia/angels. 

Right, I remember that part.  They blamed middle eastern terrorists when it turned out to be a homegrown coup - the book doesn't get into that much other than to say that they gunned down congress (I always assumed they basically massacred everybody during a state of the union, or maybe I read that?...hmmm...where's Kiefer Sutherland when you need him?) and they only really give a one line nod to the terrorists in the context that nobody thought to question and they let fear take over while they slowly stripped away rights.  Atwood sums it up pretty quickly in the book, if I recall and on the show they cover it in the conversation between Moira and June.  But when "they" take over for security of the country...how did they come to be at such a substantial size?  

I always assumed that a new regime took over entirely.  For example,  Offred says in the show as she exits her office that she doesn't think that's the army, she thinks it is a "new kind of army."  Did she mean same people, new mission and directives?  I always assumed it was entirely new regime.  A new army -- soldiers who agreed with the so-called values of the Gilead leadership.  Perhaps that's where I'm off.  Maybe instead it was current military - the US army, navy, air force - doing their jobs and following orders of the new leadership.  But we also know there is a war going on, so if that's the case, there were clearly divides in the military.  So again, that brings me back to my question of how did so many people get behind this to begin with, not just to pull off the slaughter of the government, but to also enslave the american public into Gilead - how did they have so much might behind it from the get go?  

Quote

I think we are watching the prequel right now on the news every day.

Perhaps I'm just too optimistic in my belief that at the end of the day, common decency wouldn't allow something like this to happen in a country that has enjoyed relative freedom for nearly 250 years.  Afterall, optimism is a crucial survival mechanism.

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21 minutes ago, MissE said:

Is it ever said what happens to Hannah in the book?

Spoiler

Not with any certainty. IIRC, Offred thinks she's been given to another Commander's family, but it's never confirmed. BTW, in the book Offred's daughter doesn't have a name. Offred always refers to her via pronouns.

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