Review of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale Rating – 5 out of 5

Synopsis

Offred’s, a handmaid in the dystopian Republic of Gilead, life is confined to very strict ways of thinking and acting from an oppressive regime. She makes an account of her daily life, the horrors and joys of it as she and other handmaids try to do the one thing the republic still deems as useful – produce a healthy child. Flashbacks of her life before Gilead show how society devolved into the theocratic military dictatorship that runs her world.
The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale Quote

Favorite Quote

“Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradual heating bathtub you’d boil to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, interfered with, as they used to say, but they were about other women and the men who did such things were other men. None of them were the men we knew. The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others…

We were the the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.

We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

The Handmaid’s Tale, pg. 57The Handmaid's Tale

Why I liked it

This is a hard book to read, especially for a fairly liberal woman. The society that is set up in this novel is so toxic towards women that it is frightening to read. It should actually be noted at this point that some may find the subject matter of the novel hard to process because of the extreme nature of how women specifically are treated in Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale is told in the first person which lends itself to allowing us to live inside the head of a woman in this society. What struck me was the way that she had policed her own thoughts to be in accordance with the new society around her. Offred’s coping mechanism for having to follow incredibly strict social norms is to make them a part of her thoughts and decisions, not to reject them. In a way, it’s amazing how compliant she is with the regime, but it also shows I think a pretty accurate depiction of what a person will do to survive.

The drawback of this way of writing is that we do not get much clarity about the society at large, but instead the narrative is focused on the experiences that Offred goes through not only in the present, but also how she reacted at every turn during the time period where things were changing from the liberal society to the theocratic military dictatorship. Instead of going deeply into the mechanics of social change, the story instead was focused on how one person could not realized and fight back against something simply because they did not realize what was at stake.

Book Club Question

Are there any questions? (Sorry, I had to!)

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