In the novel Edit
The Aunts are a class of women assigned to indoctrinate Handmaids with the beliefs of the new society and make them accept their fates. Aunt Lydia works at the Red Center, the re‑education school where Offred and other women go for instruction before becoming Handmaids.
Although she appears mainly in Offred’s flashbacks, Aunt Lydia and her instructions haunt Offred in her daily life. Aunt Lydia’s slogans and maxims drum the ideology of the new society into heads of the women, until even those like Offred, women who do not truly believe in the ideology, hear Gilead’s words echoing in their heads.
The only time when Aunt Lydia is seen in the novel is at the Salvaging.
In the Hulu series Edit
After the Takeover Edit
At the Red Center, Aunt Lydia teaches fertile women, including Emily, June, Moira, Alma, and Janine, about their new roles as handmaids. She then congratulates the women for their fertility, but when Janine scoffed at the idea of bearing children for the barren couples, Aunt Lydia shocks her with a cattle prod and later removes her right eye as punishment.
Janine is forced to 'confess' her sins and tell the story of her gang-rape. Aunt Lydia explains that Janine brought the rape upon herself and the other Handmaids are made to shame Janine.
Aunt Lydia shows a slideshow of all the horrible things that have happened. One of the pictures is of June's mother working on a farm.
Present time, season one Edit
Aunt Lydia knells to call the Handmaids together for a Salvaging, where she announces that they are here to execute a man who was convicted for raping a pregnant Handmaid, resulting in the baby’s death.
Offred is interrogated by an Eye and Aunt Lydia about Ofglen. She answers as honestly as possible whilst omitting the fact that Ofglen is a member of a rebel network. They then suggest that Ofglen may have tried to "touch" Offred, which she denies. When Offred admits that she knew Ofglen was a 'Gender Traitor', they ask why she didn't report the conversation. Offred replies that Ofglen was her friend. Aunt Lydia tells her that Ofglen was a "beast" and "abomination against God", angering Offred. When Lydia tells her to "remember her Scripture", Offred defiantly quotes another Scripture passage: "And blessed are those who suffer for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Infuriated, Lydia tasers Offred and begins beating her, but is stopped by Serena, who declares she's pregnant.
The handmaids are then taken to a party to honour Gilead and show the foreign delegates their success, including presenting the children of Gilead. Serena Joy instructs Aunt Lydia to "remove the damaged ones" of the handmaids from the banquet due to their visible mutilations done by the regime, among them Janine, Oflyle, Ofthomas, Oftim, and Ofjohn. Alma later remarks to Offred that the delegates are interested in fertile women as a commodity to be traded between the two nations. ("A_Woman's_Place")
All of the handmaidens are called to come together to stone someone who endangered a child. To their surprise, that someone is Janine. The handmaids hesitate and Ofglen #2 is brutally beaten by a guard when she breaks rank and voices her angry refusal. The other women, beginning with Offred, drop their stones, each saying "I'm sorry, Aunt Lydia" (a phrase they were taught early in their indoctrination). The guards are ready to kill them all, but Aunt Lydia frantically tells them that the handmaids are her responsibility. Aunt Lydia promises that they will all be punished and sends them home.
Present time, season two Edit
Offred, along with other handmaids, is taken to an abandoned baseball field, quickly revealed to be a deserted, run-down, but very much still recognizable Fenway Park. There are scaffolds erected with nooses. Each handmaid is given a noose and the lever is pulled. Instead of dropping down completely and breaking their necks, the platform only drops a few inches. It was all just a scare tactic set up by Aunt Lydia in order to give them a lesson that they'd remember.
The handmaids are all forced to sit in the rain with their hands extended while holding a rock. Aunt Lydia walks around electrocuting them but stops when she is informed of Offred's pregnancy. Offred is removed from the exercise and taken inside to get dry. Aunt Lydia, excited about the prospect of a new child, goes and rings the bell.
Aunt Lydia offers Offred a bowl of soup but Offred says she isn't hungry. Aunt Lydia replies that they are going to take care of her while she's pregnant just as long as she's a good girl. Janine is mentioned and Aunt Lydia tells Offred that she was sent to the colonies. To show her what will happen if she continues to be defiant, Aunt Lydia takes her to see another pregnant handmaid, Ofwyatt. This one is chained to a small living space. Offred decides that she is hungry and is taken back to the cafeteria. There the other handmaids a brought in soaking wet and forced to form two straight lines. Aunt Lydia takes them one by one and chains them to the stove. She burns their wrists as punishment for their defiance.
June is taken back to the Red Center after another escape attempt, where she is retagged and chained to a small living space. As Aunt Lydia explains, the Waterfords are willing to take June back for a "trial run". June’s other option is to stay in that room, counting flowers on the bedspread (there are 71), and to be eventually executed after giving birth.
In her chamber at the Waterfords, Aunt Lydia watches June bathe and makes sure she scrubs the "nasty bacteria down there". Aunt Lydia is later seen force June to drink a specially prepared vitamin shake, which she spits up.
At the baby shower, Serena retreats to the yard with a cigarette. Lydia tells Serena that everything that happens now must be for the good of the child, and thus she should stop smoking cigarettes.
Aunt Lydia takes June to the river, where men are hanging on The Wall. Lydia identifies one as Omar, the van driver who harbored June. Lydia informs June that his wife became a handmaid and the son was given away. Lydia emphasizes that June is responsible for Omar’s death, not Offred.
Aunt Lydia is still regularly monitoring June’s pregnancy at the Waterfords. She weighs Offred, measures the size of the baby, considers her mental state. She even gets to take notes with a pencil, in a case of "special dispensation" for aunts, as she explains to an astonished Serena, who encourages Aunt Lydia to leave and takes clear offense when Lydia says one of her jobs is to observe the "mood" of the home in which Offred is carrying the baby.
Commander Fred inspects the almost finished construction site of the new Red Center, along with Aunt Lydia and the Commanders Pryce, Putnam, and Cushing. Aunt Lydia is pleased about the increasing number of "girls" they "can process here". Waterford assures a suspicious Pryce that the "finishing touches" on the site will be done within two days.
Aunt Lydia takes Janine to the hospital, where Serena asks Naomi if Janine could see the baby. The doctors give Angela's parents bad news. Janine is able to hold the baby in order to say goodbye. Aunt Lydia later wakes up in the ICU and finds Janine in her underclothes holding a very much alive baby.
Although most of her past is unknown, it is known that she has/had a sister. During an exchange with June, it is revealed that she was the godmother of her sister's now deceased child. It is unknown if she had been married or if she had children. The answer in most of these cases is no.
Aunt Lydia has always seemed to hold all handmaidens close to her heart. Aunt Lydia can be seen tearing up in multiple situations; most notably the first salvaging and anytime a handmaid is hurt/killed. It can be inferred that Aunt Lydia is a firm believer of His word and that she truly believes that she is doing the best that can be done for the handmaids.
Aunt Lydia seemed closest with Janine, especially in the first season with Janine's pregnancy and the birth of Angela/Charlotte. Despite having Janine sent to the colonies, a strong connection can be sensed between the two in the earlier season.
Offred/June has always had a complicated relationship with Aunt Lydia. It is very clearly known that June despises Aunt Lydia for the horrid things she has done to not only her but also other handmaidens as well. In the second season, they share a few bonding moments during June's pregnancy where we learn more about Aunt Lydia's life.
Emily and Aunt Lydia are seen together in only harsh times. This leads to Emily's attempted murder on Aunt Lydia with a knife she stole.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Episode 1, "Offred"
- ↑ The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), section 6
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Episode 4, "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum"
- ↑ Episode 2.3, Baggage
- ↑ Episode 1.3, "Late"
- ↑ Episode 1.10, "Night"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Episode 2.1, "June"
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Episode 2.4, "Other Women"
- ↑ Episode 2.5, Seeds
- ↑ Episode 2.6, "First Blood"
- ↑ Episode 2.8, "Women's Work"