In this theocracy, even brands of car have been named in accordance with the Old Testament. Judging by the descriptions, these cars would perhaps have once been known as Chryslers, Buicks or Lincolns.
No visual images of sexuality are available to the young men of the Republic of Gilead. Such restrictions actually came to pass under the Taliban in Afghanistan, where between 1996 and 2001 it was forbidden for women to be photographed or to appear in any form of media, be it on television, film and radio, or in newspapers and books.
Humphrey Bogart was born into an upper-class family in New York in 1899. Wounded in service during World War One, he played romantic Broadway leads in the 1920s before going to Hollywood in the 1930s and slowly rising to prominence in a series of films that included High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Latterly, he became an iconic figure – the lone wolf, a cynical, super-cool, unruffled man of integrity in a murky, amoral world. He died of throat cancer in 1957.
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske, also in New York, in 1924. After being spotted by Howard Hawks on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1943, he chose her the following year to star opposite Bogart (who she later married) in To Have and Have Not. Still only 19, in that film she exhibited a dry, silky worldliness that belied her youth, famously asking Bogart in her husky voice, ‘You know how to whistle donth’cha Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.’ She is still acting.
This store is named in reference to Exodus 3:8, when Moses has a vision of the burning bush. ‘A land flowing with milk and honey’ refers to the natural abundance of the Promised Land, Israel. Given the nature of the Gileadean regime, ‘Promised Land’ is a cruelly ironic reference.
Similarly, this butcher’s shop appears to be a reference to the line ‘All flesh is grass’, indicating the fragility and impermanence of life. This too can be seen as ironic, given that the Bible promises all believers in God eternal life. Curiously, this line is from 1 Peter 1:24-25, which is in the New Testament (Gilead is run on Old Testament principles). Other shops Offred is sent to are Loaves and Fishes and Daily Bread, both New Testament references.
‘Modesty’ was one of the principles that the Taliban – a regime not unlike the Gileadean one – insisted the women of Afghanistan cultivate. To this end, they were required to wear the chadri, which covers the body from head to toe, rendering them ‘invisible’ to men (including relatives) and thus, it was thought, safe from being sexually desired.
Another law later adopted by the Taliban. In Sharia Law, a woman’s testimony in court is worth only half that of a man (whether she is single or married).