The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Published March 16th 1998 (First Published 1985)
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
I rated The Handmaid’s Tale 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is… well, if you’ve come out from under your respective rocks anytime in the past few months, then you know what this book is about. The television show on Hulu is all the rage and has received only the highest praise while the book has become mainstream in a short amount of time. In the fascist Republic of Gilead, Offred is a handmaid to the Commander and his barren wife and she is responsible for bearing them a child. As you can imagine, forcing a woman into surrogacy because her ovaries are viable isn’t exactly the life Offred pictured.
I hate to be this kind of person, but I had my eye on The Handmaid’s Tale long before it trended on Twitter. I’ve read a lot of young-adult, teeny-bopper dystopian fiction and the idea of reading a big girl version enticed me.
After reading the book, I can say without a doubt that The Handmaid’s Tale is the mother of dystopia as we know it. Everything about it is crisp and unique, even in a time when you can’t take two steps without tripping over a book set in the future.
What made this book so fresh was that it was entirely plausible. As we can learn from our history textbooks, misery parties form on the outskirts of society and gain strength until they can come into the limelight and take back what is not-so-rightfully theirs. Either through intention or happenstance, people are divided into haves, have-nots, and have-nothings and have false beliefs pounded into them. These are the stories of our forefathers and their forefathers. These are the stories of our history.
Atwood was wise to exploit this ugly side to our existence because it weaves a tale that is too close for comfort. I’ve read on several platforms that the release of the Hulu show, which has drummed up interest for the book, is “timely” because of America’s current political climate.
I beg to differ. This book foreshadows a grim future based on my country’s place in history. The Handmaid’s Tale has always been timely because it is a tale of belittlement and unfair classification based on the state of a woman’s ovaries. The Handmaid’s Tale is not a cautionary tale about giving the wrong people the right power at the right time.
Rather, this book is about doing the most good for the most people. This book is about the morals of making things better. Better should mean better for as many people as it can. Better should mean action without the intension to self-preserve. Better should mean recognizing problems and fixing them: nothing more, nothing less.
Have you read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale? What did you think?
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