The Handmaid’s Tale is a near future dystopia published in 1985 about a United States of America that has become an oppressive theocracy. ((It has also very recently become a TV series streaming on Hulu, but I haven’t seen the show so I don’t have an opinion one way or the other about that)
Offred lives in Gilead, the theocratic country that the United States has become in a near future. The Christian Bible is the rule of the land, or at least a very strict interpretation of a very selective subset of the Christian Bible. Tales of the “way things used to be” are a constant mantra told by those in power to justify the extreme measures taken to uphold the current law, tales of when women could not walk the street without being harassed, when women were expected to paint themselves for beauty, when women had to fear rape and assault. Women are safe now, they say, treated as the precious vessels they are meant to be, to bear children as God intended. There is a wall in town where the body of criminals are hung on display: atheists and homosexuals and adulterists and traitors and others. All for the safety of the good citizens of Gilead, of course.
A lingering effect of the way things used to be is low fertility across the population, caused by some mixture of chemicals, diet, medications, intentional blocking of fertility, and other causes. In the new world women who can’t produce children are unwomen, sent to labor camps to live short miserable lives. Lower class women, at least. Upper class women may be assigned handmaids who, inspired by the tale of Jacob’s handmaiden in the Bible, may act as a pregnancy proxy for an infertile wife (according to the dictates of Gilead, no man is infertile, it is always the wife).