Sunday, May 17, 2009

59. The Handmaids Tale – Margaret Atwood

May 2007
History: Published in 1985.
Plot: This is a dystopian novel, in which a nightmare future is created. The Handmaid's Tale takes place in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was originally the United States of America after nuclear, biological, and chemical pollution rendered a large portion of the population sterile and a staged terrorist attack killed the President and Congress. After the attack, a revolution occurred which deposed the United States government and abolished the US Constitution. New theocratic governments, including the Republic of Gilead, were formed under the rule of a military dictatorship. The story is told from the point of view of a woman called Offred, who is kept by the ruling class as a concubine ("handmaid") for reproductive purposes shortly after the beginning of what is called in the epilogue the Gilead period. The story's narrative is disjointed and out of order and ends abruptly, which is revealed at the end to be caused by its supposedly having been narrated onto a series of unnumbered audio tapes.
Review: A ''forecast'' of what we may have in store for us in the quite near future. A standoff will have been achieved vis-a-vis the Russians, and our own country will be ruled by right-wingers and religious fundamentalists, with males restored to the traditional role of warriors and us females to our ''place'' - which, however, will have undergone subdivision into separate sectors, of wives, breeders, servants and so forth, each clothed in the appropriate uniform. A fresh postfeminist approach to future shock, you might say. Yet the book just does not tell me what there is in our present mores that I ought to watch out for unless I want the United States of America to become a slave state something like the Republic of Gilead whose outlines are here sketched out.
Opening Line: “We slept in what once had been the gymnasium.”
Closing Line: “He says, “I didn’t.””
Quotes: "Live in the present, make the most of it, it's all you've got."
"It was like being in an elevator cut loose at the top. Falling, falling, and not knowing when you will hit.
Rating: Good.

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