Janine / Ofwarren

Colourless and compliant

The real name of Ofwarren is Janine, whom we first meet at the Red Centre in the first chapter of the novel. She has been a waitress - or waitperson, in the ‘politically correct' language of post-feminist days. She is portrayed as weak and colourless. In chapter 13 she is described as having:

‘hair dull blonde, her eyelashes so light they seemed not there ... weak, squirmy, blotchy, pink, like a newborn mouse'

In chapter 22 her voice is described as ‘raw egg white'.

Like Offred, Janine is assigned to a Commander - in her case to Commander Warren. At first she seems luckier than Offred at fulfilling the assigned role of Handmaids, evident when Offred meets a heavily pregnant Janine at the shops (chapter 5). Later (chapter 31), Serena Joy tells Offred that Janine got the doctor to impregnate her - ‘The wife knew, of course' - but the main thing is that there will be a baby in Commander Warren's household.

Mental vulnerability

Offred identifies Janine as ‘one of Aunt Lydia's pets' at the Red Centre. Yet Janine was not always treated well: we learn in chapter 13 that, at Testifying in the Red Centre, Janine had confessed that she was ‘gang-raped at fourteen and had an abortion'. She is told she was herself responsible for leading the boys on, and the group are encouraged to ‘chant in unison' that it is ‘her fault'. She is soon on the verge of a mental breakdown, and Moira, who has herself been brutally beaten after her first escape attempt, saves Janine by slapping her face to bring her to her senses before the Aunts come and find her: ‘You go too far away and they just take you up to the Chemistry Lab and shoot you,' Moira warns her.

However, Janine becomes ‘one of Aunt Lydia's pets' because Aunt Lydia thinks Janine ‘had been broken, she thought Janine was a true believer.' Offred, however, diagnoses Janine differently: 

‘by that time Janine was like a puppy that's been kicked too often, by too many people... she'd tell anything.'

When Moira escapes for the second time, by ambushing Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Lydia works on Janine, fixing her with ‘a look that managed to be both menacing and beseeching', to ensure that Janine will find out and betray whatever information she can wheedle out of the others. But, Offred says:

‘we avoided her when we could.. She was a danger to us, we knew that.'

The status of pregnancy

Once Ofwarren becomes pregnant her appearance and demeanour changes, along with her status. She is now ‘glowing, rosy' and as she notices the obviously not pregnant Offred, ‘around the corners of her mouth there is the trace of a smirk.'

The arrival of Janine's baby (in the episode ‘Birth Day' - chapters 19 to 21) is a cause of elation and celebration among the Commanders' Wives, and indeed among the Handmaids who can perceive how their own possible pregnancies would change their lives and status. Offred sees Ofwarren sitting on her Commander's king-sized bed: ‘Janine, inflated but reduced, shorn of her former name'. Offred feels that, in this situation: 

‘I can almost like her. After all, she's one of us; what did she ever do but want to lead her life as agreeably as possible?'

After a hard labour - anaesthetics are not allowed - Janine gives birth to a baby girl, whom Aunt Elizabeth inspects and deems acceptable; she is to be named Angela.


Despite the delivery, when Offred later sees Janine at the Prayvaganza (chapter 33), she is looking ‘very thin, skinny almost', with ‘no smile of triumph this time'. Janine is with a new partner, and Offred realises that ‘Janine must have been transferred then.' Ofglen explains to Offred that the baby Angela ‘was a shredder after all.' Janine is now in a perilous situation: she is only allowed three chances and had already lost a baby through a late miscarriage before the birth of Angela.


Finally, Janine seems to lose her mind completely. At the Particicution (chapter 43) we see her for the last time. She has ‘a smear of blood across her cheek' and is:

‘smiling, a bright diminutive smile. Her eyes have come loose.'

In her hand she is clasping ‘a clump of blond hair' which she has clearly torn from the head of the Particicution victim. Offred realises that Janine has ‘let go, totally now, she's in free fall.' Although Offred cannot feel sorry for her - ‘although I should', she tells us - we may see Janine as being as much a victim of the régime as those who are more obviously sacrificed by it.

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