The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood
Summary

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers

12) What is the significance of Offred’s tattoo?

Offred’s tattoo, clearly given to all handmaids but with different numbers, serves to depersonalize her at the same time as it circumscribes her identity. The tattoo shows that she is considered nothing but the property of the Gilead government. For Offred, the tattoo is “a supposed guarantee that I will never be able to fade, finally, into another landscape.” No matter where she goes in Gilead, whether with the Commander’s family or if she escapes, she is trackable, like a package or a pet. Further, a permanent tattoo links Offred and other handmaids to the Nazis and the branding of their prisoners at concentration camps, suggesting that Gilead has certain similarities to Nazi Germany.