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[111] The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

handmaid.jpgThe story is told from the perspective of Offred (Of Fred), a handmaid. Offred is a patronymic which describes her function in the Republic of Gilead; Offred belongs to her Commander, Fred, and her real name is not revealed. Her assignment to the household of the commander is her third (three strike rule), after she has failed to become pregnant with the first two commanders.

Taken place in futuristic Massachusetts, under the reign of the republic, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of a woman who is among the first wave of women recruited for reproductive purposes and allotted to those who both require such services and those who can lay claim to them through their position in the elite. The regime creates an instant pool of such women by the simple tactic of declaring all second marriages and nonmarital liaisons adulterous, arresting the female partners and, on the ground of that they are morally unfit, confiscating their children.

Since handmaids are instruments for breeding purpose, everything possible has been done to eliminate the chance of their being concubines or mistresses. Copulating ceremony is conducted in a very staid manner that no room is allowed for the flowering of secret lusts. Any passion or love of any notions one uses to titillate himself with is thwarted. Emotion is stripped. Not only are the women stripped of their individuality, they are forbidden to read and write, for they are mere containers–it’s only the insides of their bodies that are important, the viable ovaries. There would be no special favors or privileges, let alone the toeholds for love.

Frightening and hair-splitting, the novel paints a bleak society in which women have no rights, no choice, no freedom and no emotional capacity–the regime completely robs them of humanity. The authority, in contrivance to raise a brand new generation of humans, has overlooked love. The Orwellian novel shows the worst of what human can do to their own humanity: Extirpation of of human capacity. The women described in the book are no better off alive than dead, for they are not valued in a way they want to be.

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11 Responses

  1. This was my first Atwood read and remains my favorite. Great review Matt!

  2. That is one of my all-time favorite books! I’ve read it at least a half-dozen times!

  3. Atwood is a favorite of mine, too. The Robber Bride is a must-read. her poetry features the same wit and sometimes dark tones.

  4. I need to read this one….

  5. I have not read any Atwood I am ashamed to say, this one goes on my ever expanding list! Thanks for the review.

  6. This was also my first Atwood work and it spoiled me. I like only her alternate universe novels. The other novels, which BookGirl and other bloggers love, don’t do anything for me.

  7. I read this book and I loved the whole dystopian feel to it.

  8. […] Atwood, Margaret – The Handmaid’s Tale B: Bulgakov, Mikhail – The Master and Margarita C: Cao, Xu Qin – The Dream of the Red Chambers D: […]

  9. Matt, great review. The novel was one of the most frightening I have ever read.

  10. […] warbler, things mean a lot, Valentina’s Room, Reading Reflections, In Spring It Is the Dawn, A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook, Rebecca Reads, Boston Bibliophile, and let me know if I missed yours! Possibly related posts: […]

  11. […] keeping the sentiment of banned book week, and that I just read about Handmaid Tale‘s being banned in Texas, I would like to suggest this dystopian novel to a book group. No […]

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