The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Handmaid

I’m not a SCI-FI person but I bought this as it was part of the required reading for a course in “Politics in Film and Fiction” I  considered taking. I see that it’s on the 1001 Books You Should Read list, so it must be a classic!!

The story of Offred unfolds gradually and I found myself drawn into this chilling story and rooting for her to somehow find a way out. Published in 1986, this tale of life in the not-so-distant future is written in the vein of Huxley’s Brave New World.

The Handmaid’s Tale is really scary when you think something like this could happen overnight if the wrong people took control of our government. This new regime uses the Old Testament to justify many of its macabre practices. Due to pollution and nuclear accidents,  most women have become infertile. So the handmaid’s duty is to act as a surrogate womb for the elite but childless couples in the new society.

One of the scariest scenes for me is when all women are suddenly let go from their jobs,  their bank accounts and credit cards transferred to a male relative. Offred senses that her husband is not as indignant over this as she is.  From then on, things only get worse. It becomes illegal to teach women to read. Barren women are sent to “the colonies’ to clean up nuclear waste. Public executions, or “salvagings” are regularly held.

This book would be a great one for discussion groups. It provokes thought about many issues: gender, class divisions,censorship, treatment of the elderly or handicapped persons in society and much more. I’d be interesting to hear how men would view this novel.

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