Set in the United States in the early 21st Century, the country is run by a theocratic Protestant fundamentalist dictatorship known as the Republic of Glidead. Political and religious dissidents live in daily fear of deportation to a gulag of labour camps or public execution. Offred, having been caught attempting to flee from Gilead, is sentenced to become a Handmaid - a surrogate mother for a high-ranking couple suffering from fertility problems. She makes contacts with the underground resistance and is smuggled on the underground railroad to Canada. At the end of the opera, it is learned that the tape on which her story is revealed was retold in a safe house within Gilead. The success or failure of her attempt to flee to Canada is therefore unknown.