Wives are a class of women in the Republic of Gilead. They are amongst the highest ranking women in the nation, though they are still oppressed and in subjugation to their husbands. However, it appears that the Wives (and the Aunts) have a considerable amount of power and influence in the Republic of Gilead (especially over the Handmaids and other people (both male and female) below the Wives) and many of the Wives have played a major role in the establishment of the Republic of Gilead, especially in creating (and implementing) Gilead's draconian religious laws, constitution, and strict class/caste system.
Wives wear modest clothing in varying shades of blue (blue being associated with the Virgin Mary). If their husband dies, they wear all black, including black veils, in mourning.
Wives are usually married to high ranking men in Gilead, such as Commanders and Angels. Being a Wife is regarded as a high honor in Gilead. Only women perceived as being 'pure' and moral are given the 'privilege' of marrying. (Handmaids, for example, could never be Wives, due to their controversial nature). Many Wives in the early days of Gilead were supporters of Gilead's creation or married to the men who became Gilead's founders and leaders. It would later be revealed that the Wives were also the major architects in creating and building the Republic of Gilead, especially in creating Gilead's draconian religious laws and strict class/caste system. It is implied that some Wives are capable of bearing children, but most are older women and thus have difficulty conceiving (or their husbands are infertile), which is also hampered by widespread infertility. As a result, Wives have to 'share' their husbands with Handmaids, in order to get a child. Later Wives have arranged marriages once they come of age.
Wives fortunate enough to have children are tasked with raising them. However, many Wives are childless and, not being permitted to work and having Marthas to do housework for them, they are often left stuck at home with little to do. Some Wives take up hobbies such as knitting or gardening, and they frequently visit other Wives to gossip. Offred mentions that some Wives feign sickness so that fellow Wives will come to see them and give them attention. All in all, being a Wife without children is dull, monotonous and lonely. Many Wives become bitter and resentful; many of them are also jealous of the Handmaids due to their ability to conceive and the fact they must share their husbands with them. Wives can sometimes be quite cruel to Handmaids assigned to them and some have even been known to attack them. That being said, some Wives are so desperate for children that they will form covert alliances with their Handmaids, arranging for them to sleep with other men to ensure they get pregnant and offering them contraband items or other forbidden luxuries, or sometimes information, in exchange for favours.