#8: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Go read this! I really enjoyed this novel and now I am excited to go watch the Hulu series.

The Handmaid’s Tale is narrated by Offred (all handmaid’s names are ‘Of’ followed by their commander’s name), a handmaid in The Republic of Gilead. Handmaid’s are women that are strictly used for reproductive reasons in the homes of the upper class. All women in this futuristic society have been stripped of their rights and play either the role of a wife (who as far as we see has little interaction with her husband), an ‘aunt’ (women that indoctrinate the handmaids with Gilead’s beliefs), a ‘martha’ (infertile women that perform domestic duties – cooking, cleaning, etc) or a handmaid. Any women that do not fall into this category are considered ‘Unwomen’ and we know little of the fate of these women, besides that it appears worse than the roles above.

Offred narrates this story by moving between the present and the past, describing the times before the government was overthrown, during, and after. By the end of the novel, we are left curious about Offred’s fate, but are given a little dash of hope that she escapes. The epilogue features a talk given by a professor in the year 2195 about the novel, which we find out was transcribed by men after hearing tapes that Offred recorded. The title of the novel was also determined by men and was meant to be humorous. Even after everything Offred went through, her story is still told through the eyes of men. And while at first glance, this new society in the year 2195 seems to have moved far away from the principles of the Republic of Gilead, they are still so far away from equal rights or anything of that nature. Sound familiar…? I am going to post some more quotes below, but this one really stood out to me and I’d like to point it out here first:

“Judd was of the opinion from the outset that the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves. For this there were many historical precedents; in fact, no empire imposed by force or otherwise has ever been without this feature: control of the indigenous by members of their own group.”

I have had many discussions with family members about how women can often be our biggest opponent in attaining equal rights. This novel really drove home that point. Anyways, here are some more quotes…

“Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”

“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

“Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.”

…Make America ‘Great’ Again…

“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”

 

And next up, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline…

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