The book The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is a riveting and masterful reading experience. One that I can not recommend enough. We explore Gilead through the eyes of Offred. Her life is ordered and circumscribed by an oppressive society, which she sees as a ludicrous parody of life.
We see Offred struggle to come to terms with this cruel and terribly unequal place she’s now a prisoner of–Gilead, a totalitarian society, now under a Christian fundamentalist regime that has “returned to traditional values.” Values where women are considered to be little more than property. We explore oppression, misogyny, the question of how far men will go to retain power, the role that religion plays in subjugating women, feminism, sexual oppression, the fragile yet resilient psyche.
The book’s first-person narrative draws us into Offred’s world and shows the dehumanizing effects of living in an authoritarian society. The book’s strength lies in the author’s ability to convey how quickly things can change when power shifts hands, but also what it feels like to live in a world where women are denied their agency and treated as property.
The contrast between light poetic prose and the atrocious events in this book makes it read less like a horror story but instead an exploration; Less about what might happen if such terrible things were allowed to happen, and more about what is wrong with human nature. The Handmaids Tale is a cautionary allegory for those who have lost sight of what they’re fighting for.
The book does not have much dialogue, but the first-person narrative makes it compelling and intensifies this new world. We dig deep into how totalitarianism tears down people’s individuality and enforces the ideologies of a new, oppressive system. It’s thought-provoking and forces us to think about how fragile all societies are in times of war or change. The book captures the human psyche in a time of oppression and shows how it’s hard to keep a hold on your own identity when you’re overwhelmed by forces beyond your control.
I’m becoming a bit repetitive now, trying to be vague and not give away any spoilers. Yes, I know it sounds heavy, but I strongly recommend reading this beautiful, complex, and suspenseful dystopian novel. The Handmaid’s Tale will keep you guessing until the very end; it’s a timeless, thought-provoking classic with ideas that will haunt you long after you’re done reading it. Please read it now!