Offred

Outer characterization

Offred is the main character in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The name Offred is given to her by the Gilead regime and it is used to show that she belongs to the Commander. The name comes from the possessive “Of” and the Commander’s name, “Fred”. Other Handmaids are named “Ofglen” and “Ofwarren”, for example. 

However, her real name is probably June. We can guess this from the scene in the first chapter when the Handmaids at the training center whisper their names to each other: “In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.” (Chapter 1, 100%). We can guess her name is June because we hear more details about the characters Alma, Janine, Dolores, and Moira, but the name June is not mentioned again. 

Offred describes her appearance around the middle of the narrative: “I am thirty-three years old. I have brown hair. I stand five seven without shoes. I have trouble remembering what I used to look like. I have viable ovaries.” (Chapter 24, 13%). As a Handmaid, she is forced to wear an oppressive red outfit that completely covers her skin and hair: 

Red shoes, flat-heeled to save the spine and not for dancing. The red gloves are lying on the bed. I pick them up, pull them onto my hands, finger by finger. Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle-length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breasts, the sleeves are full. The white wings too are prescribed issue; they are to keep us from seeing, but also from being seen. I have never looked good in red, it’s not my color. (Chapter 2, 22%)

Before the revolution, however, she wore ordinary clothes that she chose for herself. Early in the narrative, she sees a group of women tourists who are wearing short skirts, high heels, and lipstick, and have their hair uncovered: “Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom.” (Chapter 5, 77%)

Inner characterization

Offred is scared and oppressed

Having been cut off from her old life of independence with her husband and daughter, Offred has been forced into the life of a slave. Forbidden from reading and finding herself without friends, she is often bored: “There’s time to spare. This is one of the things I wasn’t prepared for – the amount of unfilled tim...

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