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 of both genders, 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 Teal, the darker the shade the more powerful the Wife (Blue in the book relating to 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. Offred observes that all the Wives knit scarves “for the Angels at the front lines,”, and wonders if the scarves actually get used, or if they just give the Wives something to do . Wives 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.
Known Wives Edit
Below is a list of the eleven Wives that have been mentioned or portrayed in either the novel, the movie or the TV series.
|Caroline||Attends to the Putnams during the birth of baby Angela.||Alive||TV series|
|Eleanor Lawrence||Wife of Commander Lawrence, to whom Emily is reassigned after Commander Roy's death.||Alive||TV series|
|Emma Monroe||Wife of Commander Daniel, to whom Janine is reassigned after Angela's birth.||Alive||TV series|
|Grace Scott||A kind Wife, willing to fake illness so her Handmaid can skip the Ceremony.||Alive||TV series|
|Leah||Possibly the Wife of Commander Chambers.||Alive||TV series|
|Mrs. O'Conner||Sent to the Colonies as an Unwoman for having an affair; poisoned by Emily.||Deceased||TV series|
|Mrs. Webber||Wife of Commander Webber; expresses an interest in having June reassigned to her household.||Alive||TV series||Unseen character|
|Naomi Putnam||Constantly seen with Serena Joy. Especially worried about her status.||Alive|| Novel|
|Unnamed in the novel and film|
|Serena Joy||One of Gilead's strongest supporters. Her background changes according to the media she is portrayed.||Alive|| Novel|
|Sonia Cushing||Formerly close to the Waterfords along with her husband.||Alive||TV series||Unseen character|
|Wife of Roy||Widow of Commander Roy, to whom Emily is briefly assigned after being returned from the Colonies.||Alive||TV series|