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I read the book four months ago, yet I do not remember if there was any clues regarding Offred's real name. However, the very first episode of The Handmaid's Tale series suggested that

Offred's real name is June.

Understandably, I stopped watching the series, because of this huge spoiler.

  • Were there any clues in the first book, i.e., The Handmaid's Tale, regarding the real name of Offred?

  • Were there any other names in the first book which could have been Offred's name?

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  • 11
    You may wish to note that this revelation is in no way a spoiler – Valorum Nov 22 '20 at 23:51
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    I do not know if you are joking. Knowing her real name is that much of a deal-breaker for you? – Adamant Nov 23 '20 at 0:10
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    @Adamant I'll watch them after reading Testaments. Why is it so weird? I was afraid of other testaments materials, that is why I stopped. – user65648 Nov 23 '20 at 0:29
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    @C.Koca, nothing in the TV series spoils Testaments. – Keith Morrison Nov 23 '20 at 2:32
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    @C.Koca I do! My last comment may actually be fictional, for that very reason! – Paul D. Waite Nov 23 '20 at 14:06
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This is addressed in Atwood's preface to the 2017 edition.

Why do we never learn the real name of the central character, I have often been asked. Because, I reply, so many people throughout history have had their names changed or have simply disappeared from view. Some have deduced that Offred’s real name is June, since, of all the names whispered among the Handmaids in the gymnasium/ dormitory, June is the only one that never appears again. That was not my original thought, but it fits, so readers are welcome to it if they wish.

The passage in question is below.

We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed:

Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.

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Chapter 1 of the book describes the Rachel and Leah Center where the narrator of the story has been sent for reeducation, along with other potential child-bearing women. The chapter ends with:

We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semi-darkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren't looking, and touch each other's hands across space. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other's mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed:

Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.

All the other women named in this passge, all of them except June, appear later in the story. If those were the only five women present, then June must be the narrator, Offred.

There are no other unidentified women's names in the rest of the book, so "June" is the only possibility for the narrator's first name for which there is any evidence.

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