A founder of the Gilead order of Aunts. Prior to the coup that overthrew the United States government and established the Republic of Gilead, Aunt Lydia enjoyed a successful career as a judge. After the transition of power, Aunt Lydia became one of four elite women charged with founding the Aunts, an autonomous order that presided over the laws and regulations governing the lives of Gilead women. She records the story of her conspiracy to topple Gilead in a manuscript later known as “The Ardua Hall Holograph.”
A young woman from Gilead and an accessory in the plot to bring it down. Agnes grew up in the prominent household of Commander Kyle, where she enjoyed her childhood in the loving care of her adoptive mother, Tabitha. Though always harboring secret doubts about the official laws and theology of Gilead, Agnes showed no signs of outright resistance until her mother’s mysterious death and her father’s swift remarriage. Flouting her betrothal to the high-ranking Commander Judd, she pledged as a Supplicant in the order of the Aunts. Now known as Aunt Victoria, she desperately wants to learn the truth about her biological mother. Agnes tells her own story in the narrative identified as “Transcript of Witness Testimony 369A.”
A young Canadian woman who learns she was born in Gilead. Daisy grows up believing she’s an ordinary Canadian girl, but when her parents, Neil and Melanie, are suddenly murdered with a car bomb, Daisy gets swept into a network of “Mayday” operatives working to take down the Republic of Gilead. The operatives inform her that Neil and Melanie weren’t really her parents and that she is actually “Baby Nicole,” a child that attained iconic status after getting smuggled out of Gilead. Daisy takes the fake name of Jade and infiltrates Gilead in the hopes of contributing to its collapse. Daisy tells her own story in the narrative identified as “Transcript of Witness Testimony 369B.”
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Agnes’s classmate, best friend, and fellow Supplicant. Although her father is a dentist and not a Commander, Becka attends a school for elite young girls. She is naturally shy but kind and sensitive. A strong aversion to men leads her to attempt suicide to avoid marriage. She survives and pledges as a Supplicant in the order of the Aunts, in which she adopts the name Aunt Immortelle and plays a role in Aunt Lydia’s plan to take down Gilead.
A high-ranking official who oversees surveillance in Gilead. Commander Judd assisted in planning the coup that overthrew the United States government, and he has served as a prominent official in Gilead since its founding. In his surveillance work, he collaborates closely with Aunt Lydia, who knows the man’s history of killing his wives and marrying younger women.
A founder of the Aunts. Aunt Vidala’s commitment to Gilead predated the overthrow of the United States government. She bears the traits of a fundamentalist personality and envies Aunt Lydia’s authority. She hungers for power and has a penchant for doling out harsh punishments.
A founder of the Aunts. Prior to the establishment of Gilead, Aunt Elizabeth worked as an executive assistant to an influential female senator. Though intelligent and experienced in her own right, she readily submits to Aunt Lydia’s assertive personality and is caught in the midst of Aunt Vidala and Aunt Lydia’s power struggle.
A founder of the Aunts. Aunt Helena used to work as a public relations representative for a high-fashion lingerie company. Her vanity and lack of self-certainty make her easy for Aunt Lydia to influence.
Agnes’s adoptive mother. Tabitha had a close and loving relationship with her adopted daughter. Though her love sustained Agnes throughout her childhood, Tabitha died after a protracted illness.
Agnes’s adoptive father. Commander Kyle remained a remote figure throughout Agnes’s childhood. Following the death of his wife, Tabitha, he grows even less attached to his adopted daughter and schemes with Paula to marry Agnes off.
Agnes’s step-mother. The widow of a high-ranking Commander who died in uncertain circumstances, Paula marries Commander Kyle shortly following Tabitha’s death. Spiteful and vindictive, she seeks to rid herself of Agnes by marrying her step-daughter off as quickly as possible.
Handmaid to Commander Kyle. Ofkyle becomes Commander Kyle’s Handmaid after he marries Paula. Ofkyle becomes pregnant and carries the child to term but dies in childbirth. The doctor’s choice to save the baby over Ofkyle traumatizes Agnes. Later, when Agnes becomes an Aunt, her research in the Bloodlines Genealogical Archives reveals that Ofkyle’s real name was Crystal.
A marriage search consultant. Aunt Gabbana oversees all of the arrangements involved in finding Agnes a suitable husband and preparing her wedding.
A teacher at Rubies Premarital Preparatory. Aunt Lise instructs Agnes and her classmates in the skills they will need as Wives, including food etiquette and flower arranging.
Marthas in Commander Kyle’s household. All three Marthas have a supportive relationship with Agnes, whom they treat with kindness and dignity, within the limits of Gileadean society. According to Agnes, Vera had a harsh voice, Rosa wore a perpetual scowl, and Zilla spoke softly.
Agnes’s classmate. Shunammite has an outspoken and frequently belligerent personality. She has a keen awareness of social class from an early age, and as she grows older, she becomes increasingly brash and cruel in pursuit of an elite marriage. She eventually becomes Commander Judd’s latest wife.
Becka’s father and a prominent dentist. Dr. Grove serves as the go-to dentist for many important Commanders and their families. His professional reputation wins him many social advantages, including protection from punishment for regularly sexually abusing young women and girls.
Daisy’s adoptive father and a secret Mayday operative. Neil is a staunch atheist and enthusiastic collector of cameras. He manages the accounting for the used clothing shop he runs with his wife. After Neil gets killed by a car bomb, Daisy learns that he isn’t her real father but rather a Mayday operative who swore to protect her from Gilead’s authorities and to keep her identity secret.
Daisy’s adoptive mother and a secret Mayday operative. Melanie is a fiercely optimistic woman who manages sales and inventory for the used clothing shop she runs with her husband. After Melanie gets killed by a car bomb, Daisy learns that she isn’t her real mother, but rather a Mayday operative who swore to protect her from Gilead’s authorities and to keep her identity secret.
A Mayday operative. Ada takes responsibility for Daisy’s well-being after the murders of Neil and Melanie. She recruits Daisy to take part in a plan to infiltrate Gilead and escape with a cache of sensitive information that could be used to take Gilead down.
A Mayday operative. Elijah informs Daisy of her true identity.
A Mayday operative. George disguises himself as a homeless man to assist in monitoring and protecting Daisy’s identity.
A young Mayday operative. Garth trains Daisy in self-defense in preparation for her entry into Gilead, and she harbors an unspoken crush on him.
Unnamed. Daisy’s mother, who also turns out to be Agnes’s mother, appears briefly at the end of the novel. Though she remains unnamed, in his keynote address for a Gileadean Studies symposium in the year 2197, Professor Pieixoto speculates that she might be the same woman who recorded the tapes known collectively as “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
A scholar of Gileadean Studies. Professor Crescent Moon chairs the Thirteenth Symposium for Gileadean Studies, which takes place in the year 2197.
A scholar of Gileadean Studies. Professor Pieixoto delivers the keynote lecture at the Thirteenth Symposium for Gileadean Studies in 2197. He speaks about the authenticity of “The Ardua Hall Holograph” as well as the transcripts of the two testimonies given by Agnes (Witness 369A) and Daisy (Witness 369B).