I finished listening to the audio book of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I have not watched the series or the movie, so this review will be based solely on the book.
The Handmaid’s Tale was originally published in 1985, but the themes of the book are still relevant to today. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the near-future in the Republic of Gilead where women are only seen as property and a means of producing offspring. The story follows the recount of Offred who is a handmaid for a high-ranking couple who cannot have children of their own. In the patriarchal society, women are either fertile or infertile while men cannot be sterile. Infertile women are servants and housekeepers while the fertile woman are forced into being handmaids to have children with the Commanders (the high-ranking men). Handmaids also do not keep their name and instead they are named after the Commander (for example Offred is named after the Commander Fred as she is Fred’s property hence of Fred). Women also cannot get an education and work and they are forbidden to read and write. The story is intriguing and also disturbing because Offred tells of her present monotone life as well as how the normal society where she had a job, a husband, and a daughter became Gilead. She also talks about her time at the Rachel and Leah Center (also referred to as the Red Center) where she was trained to be a handmaid and indoctrinated with the beliefs of the new society by the Aunts. When I first started listening to the book, I did not want to stop because I wanted to know what life was like for Offred and how the United States became a totalitarian and theocratic state. The plot of The Handmaid’s Tale seemed like it could never happen in a modern society, but the more I read the book, the more I understood and saw how it was plausible. The ending of Offred’s recount was ambiguous, and the reader is left to decide her fate. I am normally not a fan of open-endings, but given the events that happened it makes sense for Offred’s story. After Offred’s recount ends, there is an epilogue that is set even further into the future. In the epilogue a professor discusses how they discovered Offred’s story, and he tried to make assumptions about whom Offred and the other characters in her story were. This section gave a very different perspective of what happened in Offred’s story, and it is also a reflection of how current society remembers the past.
Overall, I would recommend everyone to read The Handmaid’s Tale because it is a plausible account of what could happen in a male-dominated religious-fueled society.
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Have you read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale?