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The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood


Characters Luke

Although he does not appear in the present-action story, Offred’s former husband Luke is a major presence in the novel. Offred remembers him lovingly, and feels anguish when she cannot preserve her memory of him: “night by night he recedes, and I become more faithless” (Chapter 40). The word “faithless” here suggests that Offred feels bound to Luke by a traditional idea of romance, in which Offred owes unswerving loyalty to her husband. Some readers have found this loyalty troubling in light of the only thing we know about Luke’s past, which is that he was unfaithful to his first wife. There are other hints, too, that Luke was not entirely untouched by the belief in male supremacy which has come to the fore in Gilead: “he teased [Offred’s mother…] he’d tell her women were incapable of abstract thought” (Chapter 20). Offred recalls that when legal measures were first introduced to oppress women, she thought: “He doesn’t mind this […] We’re not each other’s anymore. Instead, I am his” (Chapter 28). In Offred’s memories of Luke, The Handmaid’s Tale draws a connecting line between the male-dominated society of Gilead and the feelings and behavior of men in our own era.