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Agnes Jemima is a minor, yet important character in The Handmaid's Tale. She is the daughter of Offred and Luke. She was born prior to the rise of Gilead, and was separated from her parents after a failed escape attempt[1][2]. She later becomes an Aunt, and is referred to by her rank as Aunt Victoria. She is one of the three narrators of The Testaments, where her story is chronicled as the "Transcript of Witness Testimony 369A."

NameEdit

Tabitha teaches Agnes that her name means "lamb." This not entirely untrue; Agnes actually derives from a Greek name meaning "holy" or "pure", but is associated with Saint Agnes of Rome, who in art is depicted with a lamb as the Greek "Agnes" (Ἁγνή) is often conflated with the Latin "agnus" (lamb).

Jemima is an Arabic and Hebrew name meaning "little dove." In the Bible, Jemima was one of the three daughters of Job and she and her sisters were described as the most beautiful women in the land. She was born to Job after God killed his first set of children and took away all his prosperity. This name may foreshadow her being an Aunt, as Aunt Jemima is a famous pancake mix.

Her Aunt name, Victoria, means victory, and is chosen as a reference to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Due to Aunts' names referring to things appealing to women, it may also be a reference to Victoria's Secret, a lingerie company.

ProfileEdit

She is described as Caucasian and having blonde hair.

Agnes considers herself to not be very pretty, having a "dough face," "raisin eyes" and "pumpkin-seed teeth."

StoryEdit

Before Gilead Edit

While shopping in a supermarket, a crazy woman tries to kidnap Offred's baby daughter [3].

After the Takeover Edit

Luke and Offred purchase fake passports in order to escape. They tell their daughter they are going on a picnic and plan to give her a sleeping pill when they cross the border so that she would not be questioned or give them away. [4].

They reach the border and give the guard their passports. When the guard picks up the phone, they speed away in the car, and then get out and try to run through the woods[5]. Offred cannot run very fast, because her 5-year-old child slows her down. She remembers hearing shots. She and her daughter fall to the ground, hiding; Offred begs her daughter to be quiet, but she is too young to understand. After getting caught, her daughter is dragged away from her[1].

Offred wakes up screaming, demanding to know what they have done with her daughter. The authorities tell Offred she is unfit, and her daughter is with those fit to care for her. They show her a photograph of her child wearing a white dress, holding the hand of a strange woman [2].

In The Handmaid's Tale Edit

Serena shows Offred a photograph of her daughter. In the photo, she wears a white dress and smiles. Offred senses that her daughter hardly remembers her. This tears at her heart.[6]

15 Years Later Edit

Offred's daughter has been adopted by a Wife and Commander, and renamed Agnes. Her new mother, Tabitha, told her a story of saving her from a witch. She had a doll's house that was like her own, where the pages were blank - she was taught to believe that books were simply decorations, like vases.

At school, Agnes was taught Religion by the fearsome Aunt Vidala and taught Crafts by the pleasant Aunt Estée. Despite Estée's assurances of her parents arranging for a good husband in time, Agnes grew up believing Vidala's warnings about men. She regularly had nightmares, and dreaded her future marriage as she grew up. When she was old enough to understand what pregnancy was, she asked Tabitha if she came from her stomach rather than being saved by the witches - believing that Tabitha was her biological mother. Tabitha did not answer her. Her best friend, Shunammite, told her that Tabitha was dying only two days before Tabitha passed away.

At her mother's funeral, she was introduced to the Widow, Paula Saunders, who her father married several months later. Her father and step-mother were assigned a Handmaid, Ofkyle, who soon fell pregnant. When going for a dental checkup, Agnes was sexually assaulted by Dr. Grove. Agnes reaches menarche just before Ofkyle dies in childbirth, though her half-brother, Mark, survives. She is shunned at school due to a superstition among Daughters that girls whose Handmaids die are cursed.

Commander Kyle and Paula plan to marry Agnes to Commander B. Frederick Judd. As the wedding approaches, Agnes is filled with dread, and contemplates suicide. Eventually, Aunt Lydia catches wind of Agnes's feelings, and asks her to reach out to Aunt Estée if she wishes to become a Supplicant of the Aunts. Agnes makes her way to her old school, and finds sanctuary at Ardua Hall. Aunt Lydia convinces Kyle and Paula to sign her over to the Aunts, and she is reunited with her friend, Becka - now called Aunt Immortelle - who also joined the Aunts due to trauma caused by sexual assault. Her best friend, Shunammite, is arranged to marry the pedophilic Judd in her place.

Agnes takes the name Aunt Victoria and spends nine years as a Supplicant. Shortly before she is ready to be elevated to a Pearl Girl, she is instructed to settle a Canadian homeless girl - Jade - who has come to Gilead as a "Pearl." Agnes is unaware that Jade is the legendary Baby Nicole, who, in turn, is her biological half-sister.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Section 13
  2. 2.0 2.1 Section 7
  3. Section 12
  4. Section 14
  5. Section 35
  6. Section 35
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