Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
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…
Well damn. I heard about this book and thought it’d be an interesting read. I wasn’t prepared for how raw and frightening this book would be. I was immediately drawn to this book from the first page. The writing style just seemed so bleak and hopeless while also straight to the point. I was immediately hooked and wanted to know more about the society Offred alluded to and how it worked.
This was a harsh awakening to the fact that rights aren’t always permanent. It’s scary how quickly they can be stripped from you. It was scarily relevant in today’s society, especially with what’s going on in the White House. In some countries, women still don’t have the right to vote and countries such as Saudi Arabia only legalized it a couple of years ago.
I watched a couple interviews with Margaret Atwood and she’s quite adamant about not taking our rights for granted. She talks about how a bunch of new generations are born with the rights and see them as given to them, and she wrote the book to remind people that things aren’t always secure. She’s right, in a way. I grew up barely thinking twice about, but really, decades ago, women were still fighting against gender descrimination in the workspace, and it’s still not exactly equal yet.
This book taught me to value my rights, to not take them for granted, and to continue to fight for women’s rights around the world.
It served as a warning to me, and to others of how things can become, if we allow things to progress as they did in the book.
In short, this book was eye-opening and raw. A definite must-read.
The scary thing about reading The Handmaid’s Tale is that Offred describes the change to be gradual so that no one could ever really stop it because the changes were so small. For another, the new government that took over first came for what they considered the “most immediate threats” such as Jews, gender minorities, anyone who didn’t believe in their own religious philosophy, intellectuals, the LGBTQ+ community, people like that. Then they started freezing women’s bank accounts. And basically what happened was that in the beginning, most people didn’t resist because they were not being targeted. They started by targeting minorities, and people generally will not help people if it doesn’t involve them. So, things progressed until things had gone too far to turn back. It’s scary because there have been many instances in history where this has actually been the case and it illustrates just how easy it is for an extremist group like that to take over.
In the beginning, it was a bit hard to get into because of the writing style. It was a bit jumpy and sometimes, when Offred’s thinking about a flashback, we don’t see the quotation marks when someone is speaking. It made it a bit confusing initially, but as the novel went on, I grew to appreciate this jumpy writing style. It allowed for the narrative to feel much more raw and real. It made it seem as if she really was just dictating the story in her head, flitting from one idea to another the way one does when thinking.
Something that I found really powerful was the names or lack thereof. The Handmaids were given the name of the man in the household along with the word “of”, making it so that they were literally a possession of men.
Everything seemed so cold and colorless the way Offred describes it, and she really did a great job describing how bleak she perceived everything to be.
Before the Handmaids were sent off to their respective households, they went through some sort of training and there’s this thing that Offred described and it was just so horrifying to read. Under one of the Aunt’s rule, the women were forced to chant that every bad thing that had ever happened to them was their own fault. For instance, there’s a scene where Janine is talking about when she was 14 and gang raped and had an abortion. The Aunt present would then ask the women whose fault it was and they had to say that it was hers. Janine was forced to say that she had led them on, that it was all her fault, that she’d been asking for it. It was honestly so sad to read. It was belittling and made the women feel as though they were worth nothing.
Moira was really awe-inspiring to me. She fought against everything that was happening every step of the way, unlike Offred. She even managed to get out of the Center and join the underground female road. I was really worried for her throughout the book; I thought she’d get caught any second. I loved that we had some LGBTQ+ representation here. Moira was a lesbian, and it was interesting to see how the LGBTQ+ community responded to the rise of the Sons of Jacob taking over the United States. Naturally, they would have been one of the first groups of people targeted and it was interesting to see the way in which Moira went undercover along with other members of the community and how they looked out for each other.
At the end, we discover that it’s really just an audio recording that Offred made sometime after she got out. We see that what Offred was talking about, had actually happened decades ago in the past. I think that made me feel a bit better in the end, knowing that that type of totalitarian theocratic government had been overthrown and the struggles Offred had to face were far in the past. I also enjoyed that we don’t get to find out what happened to her. It adds an air of msytery as well as making it much more realistic.
Again, a really thought-provoking and serious read. I highly, highly recommend.
Wow, this was a long one–I didn’t exepct that but turns out I had a lot to say about this book. Hope you enjoyed this review.