Allusion’s Sheet

Biblical Allusions are a reference within a literary work to a story, idea, or event that is related in the Bible or other biblical writings.

Jezebels is the name given to the secret brothel where certain women are sent to work as prostitutes under the Republic of Gilead. The women sent to Jezebel’s are usually rebellious women who are offered the choice between Jezebel’s and the Colonies.

Rachel and Jacob. Rachel is first revealed in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 29 when Jacob arrives as she is about to water her father’s flock. She was the second daughter of Laban, Rebekah’s brother. Jacobhad travelled a far in order to find Laban. Rebekah had sent him there to be safe from his furious twin brother, Esau.

Gilead is referring to a mountainous region east of the Jordan River divided among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh which is situated in modern-day Jordan.

Freud and his theories – ‘Penis Envy’ Penis envy is a period that was speculated by Sigmund Freud talking about female psychosexual development, where young girls experience anxiety when they realise that they do not have a penis. The parallel reaction of a boy’s realisation that women do not have a penis is castration anxiety.

Marxism is the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which was later developed by their followers to shape the beginning of communism. There was always a hierarchy 

George Orwell’s 1984-

Why has Atwood included Allusions in the text? What do they tell us about Offred and Gilead?

Where is the novel set?- The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government.

In which contemporary geographical place is Gilead located? Cite evidence-Gilead is referring to a mountainous region east of the Jordan River divided among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh which is situated in modern-day Jordan.

What contemporary university is referred to? Give information about this
university. Why is its inclusion important? Harvard is the university that is mentioned. It is a private university located in Massachusetts.  17,000 Puritans migrated to New England by 1636, Harvard was founded in anticipation of the need for training clergy for the new commonwealth, a “church in the wilderness”.

What are we told about the world outside of the house/Gilead? What is the
significance of that?

Make notes on the following areas of the Commander’s house, using quotes to support your comments: Offred’s room (Chapter 2 and 9); The garden; The sitting room (Ch. 14), The Commander’s study (Ch. 23)

Offred’s Room: At the start, it is set in a gymnasium and they have to sleep in army cots. The women are forbidden to speak. The scene then changes to be in the present and Offred now lives in room fitted with curtains, a pillow, a framed picture and a braided rug. There is no glass in the room though. Even on the picture that is framed. The window doesn’t open fully and the windowpane is shatterproof 

The Garden: There are two observations of nature ‘opening’ which contrast the restrictiveness of the household where Offred lives. The same word, ‘opening’, is used by Offred in chapter 27 when she feels that she and Ofglen have achieved some ‘real communication’, and states that ‘hope is rising in me, like sap in a tree.’ The garden as a whole represents “an impulse for life that cannot be denied” Offred also explains to the reader what her experience was like with her own garden before she became a handmaid. She said she remembers “the smell of the turned earth, the plump shades of bulbs held in the hands, fullness, the dry rustle of seeds through the fingers”

Commander’s Study:

The Sitting Room: Offred describes the sitting room as “weirdly, domestically furnished and reflecting a great deal of wealth”

Make notes on Jezebel’s. Focus upon the contrast with the rest of the Gilead
settings (Ch. 37)
Research a Totalitarian regime, either one that is contemporary or historical.

How does Gilead echo this setting?


Control is the overriding theme presented within the novel, but there are subsets of this theme. Using the subsets below, find three examples (using quotations and list the page reference) that highlight each idea.

  • Control of thought
  • Control of women
  • Control of movement
  • Control of sexuality
  • Control through fear

Closely analyse one section of the text that shows ONE theme and discuss how it encapsulates the theme (photocopy and annotate this)

Characters- Major Characters
The Commander
Serena Joy

Facts, for example – Offred is 33 years old, has had a daughter…
Actions, for example – Offred capitulates to the regime because she is too afraid for her daughter to protest
Adjectives/Phrases – Offred is educated (university graduate; good job
in the library)
Conclusions/overall description – for example; The whole story is told
from Offred’s point of view, She is not a hero; she is passive

Facts- Aged in her 40’s. Serena Joy is the wife of commander Fred, who is using Offred to be able to obtain a child of her own, as she is unable to conceive. Offred states that her real name is actually Pam.  She also smokes cigarettes (which is a banned object)

Actions- Finds out that Offred has been having an emotional affair with the commander and she furiously confronts her. She offers Offred cigarettes and information on her daughter to be able to get a child of her own

Phrases- Used to be a talented singer before the creation of Gilead


Facts- Nick is in his 30’s. He is a guardian whom serves Commander Fred. Nothing is known about his life before the creation of Gilead. Offred suspects he may be an eye.


Phrases- “No one’s, above the law Commander”


Minor Characters
Offred’s Mother
Aunt Lydia

Overall description, as well as discussing their significance

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