Dystopian Future or Present Day?

For the culminating task, I choose the book The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Many of you have probably heard of it because of its adaption into the popular television series by the same name. Though I have yet to watch the series, I have heard a lot about it. The series is the reason I picked this book. So far, I am one third of the way through it and I am loving it.

My main issue right now with the book is that it is slow. It has revealed setting and characters, and not much more. So we know it is a dystopian society and females are given to the Commanders in the military and used for producing children. I’m sitting here not having any idea what you can do with that? I have a few theories on how the novel will develop:

1) The women rebel- which is unlikely given how much grooming they go through, how the main character views herself and her servitude- she is constantly remembering her past life with longing but yet doesn’t have any anger or resentment towards the new life. It also seems unlikely because they are guarded 24/7. The women also have animosity between themselves.

2) Women die- The book hints at the other place where people go when they are of no use anymore. This other place could turn out to be a lot bigger prospect and a decent plot the book could further develop on.

3) Another Army/Enemy invades- there have been a few hints about war in the novel, so it is not unlikely that war could enter the home front and dissipate their way of living.

What I would absolutely hate to happen is for the main character, the Handmaid Offred, to fall in love with the Commander she is stationed too. So far, only once has there been a scene between them and it was weird. It would be so disappointing for the women in this novel to fall for their abusers. I can’t even get into how ugly that is.

Despite how slow the novel is, I do appreciate how well Margaret Atwood writes. She incorporates an amazing amount of symbolism into the work that is captivating. Everything she describes has colour- which enriches the text, and creates a vivid and stark backdrop fitting to the themes. One of the main roles of colour is to distinguish rank in the community. Red is for handmaid’s, blue is for Wives, black for the Commander, and green for Marthas.

The first connection I made with this novel before even reading it, but having seen the handmaid’s dress was that the dress reminds me so much of Little Red Riding Hood- each have a long red cape/cloak. Offred even makes that connection herself saying “I go down the stairs, round, convex, like the eye of a fish, and myself in it like a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure in a red cloak, descending towards a moment of carelessness that is the same as danger” (9). I think that this distinct connection to Little Red Riding Hood is a bit of foreshadowing.

What the biggest take away from the reading so far is and the connection I can make to it, is specifically to the role of women in society. Margaret has even said herself that she used events in human history as inspiration for this dystopian society but yet, it doesn’t seem too far fetched or even that dystopian. I think this is a connection a lot of people can make. We don’t live in a Puritan regime, but society is still very patriarchal. It is majority men who make laws regarding my reproductive organs. I deal with misogynistic attitudes on a daily basis. The Handmaids Tale is almost like a subdued modern day. For some others more than for myself- I say this because there are people out there, who for “religious reasons” have multiple wives, and do follow very strict rules, some of the same ones that the handmaids in this book do.

For a conclusion, I think it is best to watch John Greens Crash Course on the Handmaid’s Tale. He offers a perfect summary of what it is.

References

ATWOOD, MARGARET. THE HANDMAIDS TALE. VINTAGE CLASSICS, 2020.

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