Time Period

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopian future. It is implied that the setting is a not-so-distant possible future for our own world.

The novel mentions falling birth rates in “northern Caucasian societies” (Chapter 47, 42%) which are mentioned as a cause for the formation of Gilead, and the AIDS epidemic of the 80s in the United States. These references to the pre-Gilead period, which Offred remembers well, place the time setting of the novel sometime in the late 20th century, likely in the late 80s, since Offred is 33 years old. 

The Epilogue seems to be set in a very different time and social context. It takes place at a future conference on Gileadean Studies, and we are told that this conference takes place “at the University of Denay, Nunavit, on June 25, 2195” (Chapter 47, 100%). By this point, the Gilead regime is over, and academics are studying it from a historical distance. 

Physical setting

The story takes place in Gilead, a self-appointed country ruled by an authoritarian regime in what used to be the United States of America. The regime has only been in place for a few years. 

The Commander’s house


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