‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Social Strata Explained

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The Republic of Gilead was founded with class idealizations at its core to ensure its people did their duty to “rebuild America.” especially women who need to regain a sense of domestication under theocratic rule. An economy based on the use of slave labor manifests itself in several aspects: food is harvested by those sent to agricultural colonies; infertility is solved by sexual slavery; and women are forced to do household chores, cleaning and preparing food for those of higher status. Created through terrorism and manipulation of religion, Gilead rules through a misguided version of Christianity and violence to defeat rebellion.



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in the The story of the maid, viewers are thrust into the established world of Gilead, with the show using flashbacks to piece together the past lives of various members of the social class. From the almighty sons of Jacob to the lowest class of the womanless, The story of the maid explores Gilead’s structured hierarchical system through the eyes of prominent figures such as June (Elizabeth Moss), Fred (Joseph Fiennes), Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and Rita (Amanda Bruegel).

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The sons of Jacob

The Sons of Jacob existed long before the founding of the Republic of Gilead and functioned as a conservative political group that gained popularity during America’s troubles of environmental degradation and the infertility crisis. Although their religious ideology is unnamed, the sons of Jacob believe in a denomination similar to Puritanism, where the Old Testament is considered their scripture.

Believing that America’s problems stem from her sins, the group is vehemently opposed to birth control, same-sex relationships, abortion, divorce and lewdness. They prefer women who are practicing their “divine destiny” to father multiple children without participating in careers or education. For environmental reasons, they also believe in organic food and sustainability. The most senior in Gilead, the sons of Jacob, have amassed power through acts of terrorism, and some members form a “committee” to oversee theocratic rule.

commanders

Members of the Sons of Jacob may receive the high rank of Commander, serving as military leaders, lawmakers, and politicians. Servants are assigned to the commanders so that they can father children for the family, which is preceded by a regimented rape each month. As agents of oppression within the house, Commanders have power over every other member of the household.

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Frequently, The story of the maid examines the hypocrisy of those in power as seen in Fred Waterford’s visits to an underground brothel or Warren Putnam’s (Stefan Kunken) affair with Janine (Madeleine Brewer).

the eyes

The secret police organization Eyes is a network of loyal Gileaders who act as informants for members of the Committee. Primarily, the eyes work to spy on commanders and inform their superiors of any acts contrary to the Old Testament, such as: B. Engaging in sexual relations with maids outside of the ceremony.

The Eyes participate in police and border patrols, spying on suspects and using brutal interrogation techniques to gather vital information. The Eyes operate in secret, with their allegiance only to those who ask for information.


Guardian

Wardens are a class in Gilead that hold multiple positions in the general day-to-day rule of Gilead. Generally, Wardens work under the direction of commanders as drivers and attendants for their household, as well as for menial tasks like mending.

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However, they also perform similar duties as police officers: fight against protesters and those who disobey orders; as well as fighting at the front. Wardens can be awarded an Econowife for proving their wavering loyalty.

wives

The highest rank that can be bestowed on a woman in Gilead is a commander’s wife. Wives clothed in teal maintain their status by their “purity,” and before Gilead’s founding, many helped propose rules and regulations consistent with their perception of God’s desires.

Although they are granted some rights, wives live a mundane life. Aside from looking after their children if they are lucky enough to have some, wives often partake in hobbies such as knitting as they are forbidden from the household chores that Marthas do. Wives are not allowed to have an education, to write or to read; each of which can have serious consequences, like Serena’s (Yvonne Strahovski) Finger mutated after reading scripture.

aunts

Aiming to purify Gilead through submission and Scripture, aunts are the leaders of the most valuable class – the handmaids. The facility, which operates at the Rachel and Leah Center (also known as the Red Center), aims to treat “unruliness” in fertile women in order to train them to be gentle maids.

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Aunts are also responsible for being present at births and executions, watching over the people in the colonies, and teaching daughters to prepare for their lives as wives. Dressed in brown modest clothing, they are raised by founding aunts Lydia, Elizabeth (Edie Inksetter), Helena and Vidala.

sons and daughters

A separate class, sons and daughters in Gilead, refers to children belonging to commanders. This is their class, whether they were conceived by wives, maidservants, or forcibly adopted during the rise of Gilead – where their birth mothers were made to become part of a lower social class.

Sons wear blue or gray suits and receive training similar to that of commanders – meaning they can read and write. Daughters are dressed in pink until they reach marriageable age, at which point they wear modest clothing of white. They don’t learn literacy, but attend an “art school” and then premarital preparatory classes. Their only purpose is to become wives who can bear children for their commanders.


economists

Econopeople are considered to be those less constrained in Gilead society and are citizens who did not commit “sins” before Gilead. These people can live with their original families and go about their daily lives with minor limitations compared to the rest of Gilead.

Econopeople can be seen in gray clothes, the daughters in striped dresses. Many Econopeople marry between their own class, but those who are attractive enough have the option of marrying a commander or son.

maids

Namely, maids are those who provide a service that would not exist were it not for the environmental issues that led to declining fertility rates prior to Gilead’s founding. Captured for their fertility, maids are assigned to commanders, where they take a symbol of their name; For example, June was owned by Fred Waterford, so she became Offred.

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Here they serve as concubines to bring forth the next generation of Gileaders. Dressed in red, they are easily recognizable and are considered an important part of society’s fabric.

Martha

Marthas work as domestic servants and are assigned to a commander’s household. Dressed in a dull green, they do the cooking, cleaning, looking after the children, and entertaining visitors in the household; as well as serving under the commander and his wife.

Marthas are barren women who previously worked at a job related to their current homework and are now not allowed to shop, read, or write. Many of them are involved in a network aimed at spreading information – be it gossip or resistance work.


Jezebel’s

Jezebels are a social class hidden from most Gileads. Jezebels are attractive women turned entertainers and prostitutes who frequent the commanders and their guests in government-sanctioned brothels.

Compulsorily sterilized to eradicate the need for protection or contraception, Jezebels live only in the brothel, where they are forced to dress in scruffy clothes and makeup, controlled by aunts.

womanless

The lowest social class, the unwives, are those who are sent to work to death in the colonies. To become an unwife, a woman must be involved in what is considered a sin in Gilead; from divorced women, nuns and failed maids to activists, journalists and “gender traitors” – those who engage in homosexuality or who identify as transgender.

The fate of the unwomen in the colony is bleak – where they will die of toxic waste, malnutrition, or injuries enforced by their slavery.

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