Page 79. " they invented pig balls "
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Page 80. " Les Sylphides "

A romantic, plotless ballet suite, with music by Frédéric Chopin. Best described as a ‘romantic reverie’, it featured a moonlit chorus of dancing sylphs dressed in white. The ‘poet’ wore black. It premiered in its complete form in Paris in 1909.

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Page 90. " Lily of the Valley "

Serena Joy’s perfume (‘it’s the scent of prepubescent girls’ thinks Offred) is also the name of a Christian hymn, written by William Charles Fry in London for the Salvation Army. It is a gospel standard, and the connection is probably no coincidence.

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Page 93. " The Appalachian Highlands, says the voice-over "

Appalachian Mountains
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAppalachian Mountains - Credit: Jan van der Crabben
The Appalachians are a colossal mountain range stretching 24,000 kilometres from Alabama in the Deep South of the US to Québec in Newfoundland, Canada.

The slopes are heavily forested and dominate the landscape of the Eastern seaboard. In the novel, they provide sanctuary for tribes of rebels.


Page 93. " heretical sect of Quakers "

The Religious Society of Friends, to give Quakers their proper title, is a Christian religious movement with a spectrum of independent organisations, all of which do not necessarily share the same beliefs and practices. Gilead is a Biblical monotheocracy, permitting no denominational subgroups. On top of that, Quakers have always championed the rights of women.

Page 93. " Resettlement of the Children of Ham is continuing on schedule "

Public DomainHam
In the Bible, Ham is one of Noah’s sons. He travelled to Africa, becoming forefather of its nations. ‘Children of Ham’ is the Republic’s name for African-Americans. Supposedly, they are being ‘resettled’ in the National Homelands (Midwest).

The term "resettlement" was used by the Nazis as a euphemism for the transportation of Jews and other "undesirables" to the death camps of Poland.  The Children of Ham may well face the same fate.


Page 94. " Whispering Hope "
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Another gospel favourite: listen on Spotify

Page 98. " the way people once kept tea locked up "
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English Tea Set
Creative Commons AttributionEnglish Tea Set - Credit: Forever Wiser, Flickr
Tea was once so expensive, that in wealthier British households the lady of the house would keep possession of the precious tea leaves. Servants would bring in cups and hot water, and their employer would do the rest. From this economic caution, the English tea ritual evolved.

Page 99. " the mouldy old Rachel and Leah stuff we had drummed into us "

 Rachel and Leah were sisters in the bible. Jacob fell in love with Rachel and intended to marry her. But a heavily-veiled Leah was substituted for Rachel at the wedding, as it was expected that the older sister marry first. Jacob later married Rachel as well.

Leah bore Jacob six sons and one daughter, but Rachel could not conceive. Instead, she offered Jacob her maidservant, Bilhah, as a surrogate. Bilhah gave birth to two sons. Leah then did the same thing, offering Jacob her maidservant Zilpah who bore two sons.

Rachel eventually gave birth to her own sons: Joseph and Benjamin.

Page 99. " Beatitudes "

The Beatitudes are the blessings proclaimed by Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount. They list the spiritual and moral values that will enable people to enter the kingdom of heaven. They are recorded in the books of Matthew and Luke.

Offred notes that the aunts add their own (‘Blessed are the silent’).