Offred is the narrator and the protagonist of the novel, and we are told the entire story from her point of view, experiencing events and memories as vividly as she does. She tells the story as it happens, and shows us the travels of her mind through asides, flashbacks, and digressions. Offred is intelligent, perceptive, and kind. She possesses enough faults to make her human, but not so many that she becomes an unsympathetic figure. She also possesses a dark sense of humor—a graveyard wit that makes her descriptions of the bleak horrors of Gilead bearable, even enjoyable. Like most of the women in Gilead, she is an ordinary woman placed in an extraordinary situation.
Offred is not a hero. Although she resists Gilead inwardly, once her attempt at escape fails, she submits outwardly. She is hardly a feminist champion; she had always felt uncomfortable with her mother’s activism, and her pre-Gilead relationship with Luke began when she became his mistress, meeting him in cheap hotels for sex. Although friends with Ofglen, a member of the resistance, she is never bold enough to join up herself. Indeed, after she begins her affair with Nick, she seems to lose sight of escape entirely and suddenly feels that life in Gilead is almost bearable. If she does finally escape, it is because of Nick, not because of anything she does -herself. Offred is a mostly passive character, good-hearted but complacent. Like her peers, she took for granted the freedoms feminism won and now pays the price.
More characters from The Handmaid’s Tale
Take a Study Break!