The Handmaid's Tale Questions and Answers
by Margaret Atwood

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How does the Wall in The Handmaid's Tale link to religion?

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The Wall, which Offred describes as hundreds of years old and made of brick, is where the state displays on hooks the hanged bodies of traitors.

Religious traitors are among those Offred sees on the Wall. She describes a priest as follows:

One is a priest, still wearing the black cassock.

Roman Catholicism is outlawed in this evangelical state. The Wall performs the function of reinforcing the idea that there is no religious freedom in Gilead and that even the wrong form of Christianity can lead to a death sentence.

The Wall is in Boston, and whether or not it was there during the height of Puritan religious orthodoxy, it is nevertheless an allusion to a similarly religiously repressive past. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony also executed those who, despite repeated warnings and punishment, refused to conform to the colony's religious norms. This included such Quakers as Mary Dyer, whose repeated Quaker evangelizing led to her hanging. The old Wall in a city associated with past...

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