Where Does The Handmaid's Tale Take Place?

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Hulu’s newest show Handmaid’s Tale raises a lot of questions. How did America arrive at a point where women have become nothing more than incubators and property? What exactly led to this society's mass infertility rates? And, what does the rest of America look like? While we’ve yet to get an answer to the latter question, we really have to start by figuring out one simple question in the first place: where the hell does Handmaid’s Tale even take place?
Thankfully, there’s enough source material and context clues to give viewers an answer. The Hulu streaming drama is based Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name. Despite Atwood's Canadian origins, main character Offred (Elisabeth Moss) — whom I will continue calling June, because that’s her real name — is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the the America-toppling Republic of Gilead appears to be based.
All signs in Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale point to the same setting for the latest adaptation. Scroll through the gallery to see all the hints you may have missed this nightmare is located in the placid town of Cambridge.
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The Wall

One of the most haunting images of Handmaid’s Tale is the wall where the Republic Of Gilead hangs enemies of the state. Within the first 20 minutes of premiere “Offred, we see three bodies hanging on a wall. While staring at the horror, June explains who the men were, saying “a priest, a doctor [who performed abortions], a gay man.” All of them displeased the dangerously conservative new world order.

What might not be obvious is where exactly this wall is. In the book, it’s the Harvard wall, which is in Cambridge. In a recent New York Times piece, author Atwood reiterated this fact and didn’t claim to have changed the gruesome setting for the series. This points to the wall remaining in use for Hulu’s Handmaid’s, since the writer is a supervising producer on the drama.
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St. Paul’s Parish

This is the biggest clue Handmaid’s is still set in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In second episode “Birth Day,” June and Emily (Alexis Bledel) take a stroll through their horror show of a town. They speak about their lives before Gilead, how things have changed — Alaska is our remaining democratic stronghold — and notice “St. Paul’s” is being dismantled. Offred specifically says the church was her dad’s “parish.”

There is a St. Paul’s Parish church in Cambridge and it looks absolutely identical to the one that actually exists in Massachusetts, down to its massive decorative window.
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Emily Working At “The University”

During June and Emily’s conversation their former lives, Emily mentions she used to work at “the University,” without clarifying which one, hinting it’s so famous no one needs an explanation. Cambridge happens to be home to Harvard and MIT, so June could probably figure out a former cellular biology expert wasn’t working at the Cambridge School Of Culinary Arts.
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How Emily Talks About New York

“They took down St. Patricks in New York City,” Emily says. “Blew it up and dumped every stone in the Hudson River.”

If this tale took place anywhere near NYC, the characters would’ve literally heard the explosion — not heard about it.
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June And Moira’s Momentary Red Centre Escape

During the longtime friends' flight from the Red Centre — which nearly gave me a heart attack, FYI — the pair attempt to take a train to Boston. As they walk down the stairs, you can see a construction worker chipping away at a sign reading “Arlington.”

Arlington is a stop in green line stop within Boston’s T subway system. The random green accents throughout the station confirm that’s where our heroines are. Boston is right across the Charles River from Cambridge.

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