The Handmaid’s Tale (Review)

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dystopian novel published in 1985 where a totalitarian theocracy, a central governing force ruled by religious principles and doctrines, has overthrown the U.S. government. Society is based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible where women’s bodies are the property of their fathers until marriage, at which point they become property of their husbands. Their basic human rights are revoked and while set in the future, women’s role in society takes a leap back in time. Under the new regime, The Republic of Gilead, women’s rights are severly curtailed and a new social heirarchy is enforced. Women are quickly “cut off” and no longer allowed to own property, work and earn wages or read.


Thinking can hurt your chances, and I intend to last.

Offred, literally Of-Fred, is a handmaid in Gilead. Through Offred’s perspective and flashbacks, the revolution that resulted in her indoctrination and the newly enforced social hierarchy of Gilead. Her purpose in Gilead is to assist in procreation. Pre-Gilead society witnessed a substantial decline in birth rates due to sterility caused by pollution and an increase in STDs. Because of her fertility, Offred is deemed “desirable” and is not sent to one of the working camps for the “undesireable” women. Offred is assigned to a member of the upper class elite, her third family, Commander Fred and his wife Serena Joy. There, she has no contact with the Commander outside of the monthly “ceremony” where they engage in a sexual intercourse ritual witnessed by Serena Joy intended to result in conception.


This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.

Atwood’s work of “speculative fiction” is particularly haunting and thought-provoking is that it offers a realistic scenarios seen before. Nothing included in the novel as not been witnessed within a culture at one point or another throughout time and the social, political and religious trends popular in the 1980s are still prevalent today.The question of “What if” these trends were explored to a logical end is answered in The Handmaid’s Tale and the totalitarian regime that “can’t” or “won’t” happen here does. It is no wonder the novel has been adapted to a modern television series.


Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

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