Aunts are a class of women in the Republic of Gilead. They are some of the highest-ranking women, responsible for overseeing the training and indoctrination of Handmaids, overseeing births and presiding over women's executions.
Aunts wear modest, brown clothing and belts with cattle prods attached.
Aunts run the Rachel and Leah Center, where Handmaids are sent to be trained and where they live in between assignments. Aunts are in charge of training the Handmaids and ensuring they don't escape, and doling out punishments to disobedient Handmaids. Due to their positions, they are the only women in Gilead permitted to read and write (in some editions of the novel, they are also not allowed to read) and have near-absolute power over the Handmaids, making them freer than most women under the regime.
Some Aunts came from positions of leadership and power. For example, Aunt Helena ran a Weight Watchers in Iowa, which made her the perfect person to encourage the Handmaids's testimonials. Aunts are usually fanatical supporters of Gilead and are brutal in their indoctrination of the Handmaids. Their training often involves Bible readings and sermons, lectures on Gilead's beliefs and on morality and 'a woman's place', viewings of violent, hardcore pornography and 'therapy' sessions, where women are encouraged to share their darkest secrets and 'sins' and are publicly shamed for them.
Aunts also attend the births of babies by Handmaids, escorting other Handmaids to births to take part in the celebrations. In addition, Aunts preside over Salvagings or executions, announcing the condemned's crimes and reminding everyone of their society's pure and godly values.
Known Aunts Edit
- Aunt Lydia
- Aunt Sara
- Aunt Helena
- Aunt Elizabeth
- It is revealed in the epilogue that the Aunts deliberately had names associated with household products commonly used by women; for example, Aunt Sara, due to the association with Sara Lee, so as to make the Aunts seem more familiar to the Handmaids.