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Republic of Gilead
Flag of Gilead
Flag
Location of Gilead
Capital unknown (possibly Washington D.C.)
Official languages English (de facto)
Government Theocratic military dictatorship

The Republic of Gilead is a fictional country that is the setting of the Margaret Atwood dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale.

Overview

The country exists within the borders of what was originally the United States of America. However, after an unspecified catastrophe (possibly a nuclear or biological war or extreme environmental pollution), a meticulously planned terrorist attack was staged against the President and the Congress, which attack was afterwards referred to as "the President's Day massacre." Immediately after this, a revolution occurred which deposed the United States government and abolished the US Constitution, and a new theocratic government was formed under the rule of a military dictatorship. The government has proclaimed martial law due to the destabilizing effect of "hordes of guerrillas" roaming the countryside, although the actual threat from the "guerrillas" may be greatly exaggerated. The guerrillas in the novel are people from opposing religious groups, even Christians, who follow the teachings of the New Testament.

The Republic of Gilead is governed according to strict Old Testament-based religious dogma. Other religions are not tolerated, and those who do not conform are quickly executed by the state or shipped to areas of the former US known as the "colonies" which have dangerously high levels of radiation. The colonies are also the source of most of Gilead's agricultural production. For a brief period at the outset of the Republic, Jewish people also have the option of emigrating to Israel, as they are regarded as Sons of Jacob and therefore deserving of special treatment. Those who may have formerly been considered African-American are redesignated the Children of Ham and transported to National Homeland One, believed to be located somewhere within the boundaries of what was previously North Dakota. However, some sources have suggested that formerly African-American women form part or all of the complement of the Marthas, a group of sterile, older women who are deemed most appropriate for a life of domestic servitude.

The Republic also has a brutal policy towards women, which forms much of the novel's central theme. In Gilead women are forbidden to read, and are segregated into an elaborate caste system in which their sexual activities are strictly controlled and regulated so as to serve the procreative agendas of the government. Ironically, despite its claim to be based on "traditional values", the Republic's misogyny is far more extreme than that of even the most misogynistic periods of premodern human history.








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