Summary and Analysis
Termed "Byzantium in the extreme," Gilead, a fascist republic shaped out of an unnamed New England city by a repressive cabal of the religious right, contains enough texture to suggest a college town reminiscent of Boston. Atwood mentions Massachusetts Avenue, students sculling the river, shoppers riding subways from the outskirts into the heart of the city, and antiquarian interest in old gravestones and colonial architecture. Leaving out secret details, Moira relates to Offred how she escaped Gilead. By connecting with Quaker station tenders of the Underground Femaleroad on a one-to-one basis, Moira reaches the center of the city in a mail sack. Because the border is closely monitored, her route takes her from Salem to a lobster fisherman's home in Maine. She hoped to escape to Canada via the sea route — up the east coast and around the peninsula.