‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: In What Year Does the Show Take Place?

The events in Gilead are pretty horrific, but there are some indications that June Osborne was living a normal life in the United States before her life as a handmaid, complete with trips to trendy cafes and DVDs of Friends.

According to one source, we might not be too far off from the era when The Handmaid’s Tale occurs. Here’s what we know about this Hulu original series.

June and Nick touch foreheads while sitting on a window sill in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Elisabeth Moss and Max Minghella in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ takes place in the dystopian fictional country of Gilead

With phrases like “blessed be the fruit,” “under his eye,” and “may the Lord open,” this series takes place in a fairly religious society. 

In the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, the United States government had been overthrown and transformed into the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime dedicated to increasing the birth rate. 

To make that possible, fertile women became the properties of the state, sometimes assigned to high-ranking officials as “handmaids,” tasked with bearing the new generation of children against their will. 

That includes the main character of the series, named June. She was separated from her daughter and was assigned as a handmaid to the Waterford household. 

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When does Hulu’s original series, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ take place?

Hulu’s original series does not explicitly state what year The Handmaid’s Tale is set in. However, through June and via props and scenery, there is more information regarding the time period of the Republic of Gilead.

There are some hints that this series is taking place somewhat in the present day. That includes the clothing of June and her friends in flashbacks. When she’s exploring parts of the long-forgotten Boston, MA., she finds the town sign for Salem, as well as the building for The Boston Globe. 

In one scene, June held an iPhone and in another episode, she made a joke about Yelp. She even watches old episodes of Friends on a DVD with a laptop. As a result, Elite Daily dates this series to be taking place around 2024 or 2025.

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When does ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ novel take place?

There are some differences between The Handmaid’s Tale and the novel it was based on. The first difference is the time period of Offred and Gilead. There are few concrete details regarding dates in the original Margaret Atwood novel of the same title. 

The book was written in 1985 and, according to Elite Daily, there are some references to life in the 1970s. However, this novel made references to the “dystopian future,” leading some to estimate that it takes place around the early 2000s. 

The Hulu original series somewhat followed this novel’s story for the first season. With later episodes, though, June went on more adventures in this country, predominately with the goal of being reunited with her daughter, Hannah.