The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Wow, it's been so long since I last posted that you're probably thinking I decided to read The Tale of Genji all over again. I did not, though, so I promise that's the last reference to the length of Genji that I'll make (in this post). No, the real reason I haven't been posting is due to a combination of being on vacation with no internet, and laziness. I was still reading, however, so let's get to that.

The Handmaid's Tale, sexual pun intended, is set in a futuristic dystopian society and tells the story of a Handmaid - a religiously and politically sanctioned concubine. The Handmaid who serves as our narrator is not a huge fan of her new role in society.

Though Atwood does an excellent job of creating a cohesive, well-realized, and clearly defined society, I would not go so far as to say the events she portrays are believable. I don't think our own society is just one step away from heading down this particular path. That isn't a criticism, however, because I don't think you have to consider this a real possibility to appreciate what Atwood is trying to tell us.

As a matter of fact, one of my favorite aspects of this book is how it captures both the bad qualities of the society before the new "Handmaid" regime is put in place, as well as the "Handmaid" regime itself. It would probably have been easier just to cast the latter regime in an evil light, but I appreciate that Atwood was willing to criticize the extremes of the pre-dystopian society as well.

I definitely recommend The Handmaid's Tale, especially to anyone interested in dystopian literature.  However, considering how well-crafted the book is, I don't think you have to be a fan of similar books to enjoy this book.

"Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations" (270).


Erin Leigh
Erin Leigh on 08/15/2010 11:42 p.m.

I love <i>A Handmaid's Tale</i>. One thing of my favorite aspects of the book was how unexpected little nuances were. (...not sure if these are spoilers, so viewer beware...)

For example, the 'Handmaid' society seems to have generated from either the cultures of the US and/or Canada. I assumed that whatever caused this semi-Taliban society to arise, occurred all over the world and not just in North America. However, I was shocked when people from an Asian culture visited the Handmaid society and not only were they more sexually liberated than the Handmaid society, but they were also depicted as more sexually liberated and free than their modern day counterpart. Such events as this caused me to reexamine certain assumptions about the longevity of a culture typically portrayed as surviving where others will not. It was refreshing in many ways and, for me, believeable but strange.

Scott on 08/16/2010 10:22 a.m.

I was quite surprised by that moment too. It was almost hard to believe that the Handmaid regime was only a small part of the whole outside world. I guess that speaks well of Atwood's ability to engross us as readers.

More spoilers:

I also thought it was interesting how, in the "Historical Notes" it is the mid-22nd century. If we assume the majority of the novel took place just after modern times, the Gilead regime could have lasted nearly 200 years, or practically as long as our current government. This definitely caused me to reexamine the longevity of our culture and government!

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