Offred’s Real Name In 'The Handmaid’s Tale' Is The Only Piece Of Power She Still Holds
In The Handmaid's Tale misogynistic dystopia, women are defined solely by their relationship to men. "Offred" and "Oflgen" mean literally of Fred and of Glen. It's a tactic meant to dehumanize their already faceless slaves, stripping fertile women of any personal identities that comprised their former freedom. Here, they're forced to wear red and white uniforms and have scripted conversations; "Praise be" and "Under his eye" are among the few phrases permitted. And in a world where civil liberties are considered luxury, Offred's real name in The Handmaid's Tale is the only true power she has left, because as long as she remembers it, she hasn't given in.
In Margaret Atwood's original novel, Offred's real name is never revealed. Many eagle-eyed readers deduced that it was June based on contextual clues: Of the names the Handmaids trade in hushed tones as they lie awake at night, "June" is the only one that's never heard again once Offred is narrating. According to The New York Times, Atwood insisted it wasn't intentional, but admitted it's fitting. The Gilead resistance is called Mayday, and June is a similarly summery moniker — a beacon of sunshine in an otherwise dark, dispiriting existence. And, in Roman mythology, "Juno" was known as a protectress of women.
In Hulu's TV adaptation, Offred recites her name with vigor, listing off the people that shaped her prior life as if it's her survival mantra. In the premiere episode, she sits alone in her room, the sunlight streaming in from behind her. "Her name was Hannah, my husband was Luke, my name is June," she proclaims slowly, steadily, recounting their names like she's committing to them to muscle memory.
They're the only fragments she has left to cling to, and here, she wields them like weapons. The government can erase her name, revoke her rights, suppress any semblance of her individuality, but what they can't take from her is her mind and her true identity of June.