Page 53. " The two others have purple placards hung around their necks: Gender Treachery. "

‘Gender Treachery’ is the Republic’s term for homosexuality.

Modern-day Christians are split on the issue. Conservative Christians (like the rulers of the Republic) refer to Leviticus 18:22, interpreting it as a condemnation of gay sex:

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

Leviticus 18:22 (New International Version)

 Liberal Christians argue that it is a matter of interpretation and translation, and that context is all.  It's worth pointing out that Leviticus also prohibits clipping hair on the side of the head, tattoos, planting two kinds of seed in one field, wearing clothing woven from two kinds of material, and eating shellfish:

Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you.

Leviticus 11:12

Page 54. " ‘Under His Eye,’ she says. The right farewell. "

A clear reference to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which all citizens of Airstrip One (formerly England) are watched by omnipresent ‘telescreens’.


Page 55. " Time or Newsweek "

 Time is an American news magazine. It was founded in 1923 by Briton Hadden and Henry Luce, who were originally going to call the publication Facts. Now owned by Time Warner, it is published in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. Its circulation stood at 3.4 million in 2009.

 Newsweek (originally News-Week) is a New York-based rival publication, launched in 1933 by Thomas J.C. Martyn. The first edition featured a cover montage of photos from that week’s news, including a Nazi rally in Germany.

The magazine has engendered its fair share of controversy in the last decade, including reporting on alleged ‘Qur’an desecrations’ at Guantanamo Bay in 2005 and a supposedly ‘sexist’ cover shot of Sarah Palin in November 2009.

Page 60. " Opium it was "
by cm

Created for Yves Saint Laurent, and first marketed in 1977, Opium is still going strong.

Page 62. " Nolite te bastardes carborun-dorum. "

Don’t let the bastards grind you down

The mock-Latin phrase originates from World War Two. It is also the first line of the unofficial school song of Harvard University, and has been popular with generations of students there. Since the story is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the location of Harvard, this is significant.

Page 64. " presbyterian "

 Presbyterian is an umbrella term for churches of the Christian faith that follow Calvinist traditions within Protestantism. It originated in Scotland prior to 1707 when the Act of Unionism was passed. Presbyterians believe in the absolute authority of the Scriptures and the sovereignty of God.

The song is Amazing Grace, written by John Newton after his conversion from slaver to slave trade abolitionist.

Listen on Spotify: performed by  The Golden Gospel Singers     Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Page 64. " I feel so lonely, baby, I feel so lonely, baby "

From Elvis Presley’s 1956 hit ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Since music is as Tolstoy said ‘the shorthand of emotion’, it is unsurprising that the regime has banned all recorded forms of it: to control a person’s emotions is to control their thoughts.

Listen on Spotify

Page 68. " co-educational "

A co-educational (or ‘co-ed’) establishment is one where men and women (or boys and girls) are taught in mixed classes and, in universities, share accommodation buildings.

Page 72. " small blue flowers "
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Creative Commons AttributionForget-me-nots - Credit: Nana B Agyei

Page 72. " Saint Paul said it’s either that or a close shave "

 Saint Paul (Paul of Tarsus) was the self-proclaimed ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’. According to Acts of the Apostles, his conversion to Christianity took place on seeing a blinding light and hearing a divine voice on the road to Damascus.  The reference comes from his first letter to the Corinthians:

If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

1 Corinthians 11:6

St Paul seemed to view women as second class citizens. But as there are many contextual and syntactical issues inherent in any translation of a Biblical passage, this is not accepted by all scholars.

Page 75. " Four digits and an eye. A passport in reverse. "

Offred’s wrist has been tattooed, in a chilling echo of Germany's WW2 concentration camp prisoners.  Although she is prized as a national resource, her tattoo – like those of Hitler's Jewish victims – is a step towards dehumanisation.