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The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers

1) What is a Handmaid?

In the Republic of Gilead, many married couples are unable to have children. The women in these couples are blamed for the couple’s infertility and labeled “barren.” It is forbidden to suggest that a man might be sterile. High-ranking infertile couples can be assigned a Handmaid: a single woman of proven fertility who is duty-bound to have sex with the husband of a “barren” wife in order to produce children. Sex between husband and Handmaid is only permitted during the “Ceremony,” a monthly ritual which involves the “barren” wife as well.