In the novel
In the TV series
A founder of a local Sons of Jacob chapter tells the Boston Globe in an interview he read about the community in a Facebook group and got into it because he wanted to help "the kids" to "get them out of gangs and away from their sinful families and into a better way of [life]".
Andrew Pryce, another early group member who recruits Nick for the organization, blames the pre-Gilead culture of the United States, which he perceives as sinful, for the ongoing fertility crisis and describes his organization as a "group that wants to set things right, clean up this country". He mentions that the group has chapters in thirty states and that he is the leader of one of them. Some members even seem to believe to be "doing God's work" to "make the world better", yet admitting that "'better' never means better for everyone but always worse for some").
By later inquiries in the Boston Globe archives however, June discovers their actual internal militarized power structure, as well as their plan to curtail civil rights to seize power for themselves in a totalitarian regime, but also that this "old-fashioned group raises new hopes" in the wider populace by its religious propaganda.
The U.S. government seems to sympathize with some ideas of the group since they ban vasectomies and have husbands approve birth control prescriptions . This may also suggest the group has members or contact persons in the administration, which could help to explain further events.
Prior to the attacks, the FBI is closing in on some of the conspirators.
See also: President's Day Massacre
In the novel
According to Offred, "'they' shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress, and the army declared a state of emergency". She adds "they blamed it on the Islamic fanatics" and that "the entire government" was "gone like that", making her wonder "how did 'they' get in". Later on "they suspended the Constitution" which they said "would be temporary". Moira suspects "they've been building up to this"..
In the TV series
At the time, the TV reports an attack of "20-30 guys with machine guns ... shooting from the galleries" (Luke) of the Capitol and that "martial law has been declared", as well as "an explosive has been detonated (at) the White House". U.S. army officials then announce that the "National Guard is being deployed" and "has been called in" from all over the country.
Similar to the book, June (as Offred) later recalls "'they' slaughtered Congress", "blamed terrorists", and "suspended the Constitution" which they said "would be temporary".
In a flashback of A Woman's Place, several conspirators are then seen being tasked with "security" issues in a U.S.-flagged office (among them Mr. Waterford and Mr. Putnam) which seems to confirm the U.S. administration is under their control in the aftermath of the attacks. They also shut out female members from their political decisions at this point because they "won't let" women "forget their real purpose" again (Putnam).
Commander Fred later refers to Nick that a "Field Commander" of the conspirators "took New York", and a refugee mentions to Luke that "D.C. fell", which implies some military resistance against the SoJ's takeover flared up at some time.
After the takeover
In the novel
Newspapers are censored or closed down for "security reasons", roadblocks and "Identipasses" begin to appear. Offred refers "everyone approved of that, since it was obvious you couldn't be too careful". Adult services like "Pornomats" vanish (which no one really misses) because "people were complaining". New elections are announced to be held, and that it "would take some time to prepare for them". The regime then freezes the bank accounts of all females and takes away women's civil rights to own property and to hold down a job.
In the TV series
The Committee, now in charge of governance, uses the imposed martial law to establish a patriarchal, theocratic regime with its own paramilitary forces (known as Angels and Guardians), and later to take away women's civil rights to own property and to hold down a job.
The new regime eventually proclaimed the Republic of Gilead and ordered to detain and enslave fertile women as "Handmaids". It moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical regime of Christianity-inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes.
Despite the success of their coup d'état, the Sons of Jacob were unsuccessful in completely destroying the United States and its administrative structures, who established a government-in-exile in Anchorage, Alaska. The Sons of Jacob were also unsuccessful in completely taking over the continental United States of America with armed resistance to the regime by the American people and the United States Armed Forces taking root in both the western and southern United States as well as a number of areas in SOJ/Gilead-controlled America becoming rebel enclaves (see Map of Gilead).
In the abandoned Boston Globe facility, June is seen listening to a recording of an interview with an early "Sons of Jacob" member and digging through newspapers cutting out clippings. She pins the clippings to the wall under categories like 'Origins of Gilead', 'Power Structure', 'Militarization' and 'Curtailment of Civil Rights'. Staring on an article under the latter category, she 'tells' the clippings in a voice-over "You were there all the time but no one noticed you".
- Commander Fred
- Commander Pryce
- Commander Warren
- Commander Guthrie
- Aunt Vidala
- Serena Joy (initially)
- In an event of catastrophic occurrence that kills the President and many officials (like the above-mentioned terrorist attacks), the designated survivor would become the Acting President of the United States under the Presidential Succession Act (3 U.S.C. §19). It is possible that the designated survivor was a member of the Sons of Jacob, or that they were also sought out and murdered in the attacks.
- The TV show "Designated Survivor" depicts an assassination of similar extent.
- The freezing of women's bank accounts was largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by sex.
- Author Margaret Atwood has constantly been vocal about her basing the book on "events that had already happened around the world". In the early 1980s, a U.S. White supremacist group known as The Order had been known for criminal activities and for their pro-Aryan agenda. One notable member was the late David Lane. Activities included murder, robbery, racketeering, and terrorism. Their ultimate goal was to overthrow the United States government, and had secret military training camps designated specifically for this purpose. Though the Order's intentions weren't religious (like those of the Sons of Jacob in the novel), the society they had in mind--were they to have successfully overthrown the government--would have resulted in purification in terms of harsh ethnic persecution and expulsion of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and "race traitor" Whites as well as other minorities living in the United States. Similarly, The Order believed in emphasizing the role of White women within the home while heavily limiting it outside.
- The Sons Of Jacob appear as those in power right after the "terrorist" massacres. This could mean the "designated survivor" belongs to the organization.
After the takeover
According to reports circulating inside Gilead, there are still pockets of resistance in California, Oregon, and Washington (along the West Coast) and Florida, as well as the other Southern states and Chicago, Illinois, which are presumably larger than admitted by the regime's own propaganda. This indicates the Sons of Jacob were unsuccessful to take complete control of the continental United States (see "Theories"). Offred describes the scope of Gilead as currently uncertain. "The edges [...] vary, according to the attacks and counterattacks".
The armed resistance to Gilead also solidifies the unpopularity of the Sons of Jacob and of the Republic of Gilead among the majority of the American people.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Episode 2.3, "Baggage"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), Epilogue, "Historical Notes on The Handmaid's Tale"
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Episode 8, "Jezebels"
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Episode 6, "A Woman's Place"
- ↑ Episode 5, "Faithful"
- ↑ XII Jezebels, section 32
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 The Other Side
- ↑ Episode 2.1, June_(TV_Episode)
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), section 28
- ↑ Episode 2.1, "June"
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 Episode 3, "Late"
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Episode 2, ", Birth Day"
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), section 5
- ↑ https://imgur.com/a/JHLDtzh
- ↑ Episode 1, "Offred"