The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985 yet has been making the news in 2017! This dystopic novel has not only become a TV series but has frequently been discussed in relation to the dangerous political situation in the United States. It is the story of Offred as she reflects on her past and present situations.
The novel is set in the Republic of Gilead, a fictional place in the United States, where women are devalued and stratified into roles such as:
- Wives – wear blue and are the highest class of women.
- Handmaid’s – their role is strictly reproduction to procreate with the husbands so that the sterile wives have babies to raise. They are dressed in a red habit concealing their bodies.
- Martha’s – their role is to cook and clean for the family. They are identified by their green clothing.
- Econowives – they are are married to lower class men. They take on all of the roles above and dress in stripes.
The narrator of the story is Offred. She is a Handmaid. As she struggles with her sedate, lonely life, she reflects on her past missing her daughter and her husband Luke, her time in captivity learning to be a Handmaid and her immediate situation. She is strictly monitored and no longer allowed to read, watch television or have any independence. She is forced to participate in the “ceremony” as the commander tries to impregnate her each month. She only benefits from a brief daily respite of walking to the store for supplies.
” A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze”.
Atwood has done an amazing job telling this story through the thoughts of Offred. As I was reading it, I marvelled at how much I had forgotten since my first read through this book in highschool. It was such a treat to revisit the Republic of Gilead and reflect on how privileged I am to live and raise my family in Canada and I am not sure why I waited so long!
In so many ways, Atwood was ahead of her time, commenting on the cashless banking with Compubank which is similar to our debit cards. The tale blamed Islamic fanatics for violence which is unfortunately still a part of world events. I even read an article where Atwood was asked if she would change anything about the book and she said that she would add cell phones, would have predicated that we would all be walking around with phones in our pockets with the power of computers? This truly is a book that is more relevant today than it was 32 years ago.
I did not have a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale when I met Margaret Atwood at One Book One Milton so was very happy to find that Chapters sells copies online! Now I have signed copies of a few of her novels including The Heart Goes Last which was another great dystopic read. Now that I have finished rereading The Handmaid’s Tale, I am read to watch the series and welcome any of your thoughts on the book or series below.