Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Utopian/Dystopian Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Handmaid’s Tale is a utopian/dystopian fiction novel set in a future not too far from now where nuclear war has caused a strange societal shift. The United States has been overthrown and is now governed by an all-powerful set of officials that take a literal direction from Christianity on how to rule.
The women in this novel are distinguished by the color of gown they wear. Blue is for Commanders’ Wives. Red is for the Handmaids. White is for Commanders’ daughters until they are wed. Brown is for the Aunts who help teach women into the role of a Handmaid. Green is for the Marthas who help organize/clean for the Wives’ household. A rainbow of these colors are for Econowives – or those wives of the poor that are expected to do everything.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Offred (meaning she is Of Fred), a handmaid, that has recently come into service under a Commander and his household. The object of the handmaid is to provide children for the Commander. This is her only duty in life – have a child and then move to the next authoritative household. The sex is not supposed to be enjoyable – in fact it is quite awkward – and the handmaid is viewed as purely a vessel for a child. Handmaids are needed in this society since the nuclear war has robbed many women of fertility or to even produce a healthy baby.
This novel presents several intriguing questions on society and ways in which religion can be construed to create a totalitarian environment. Atwood even gives explanation on how a government could easily make a full turnaround from a democracy with the people following. She also delves deeply into the roles and freedoms of women through construction of this future world. A strong hint of feminism is present throughout her writing.
If you are in the mood for submersing yourself in the tale of woman whose life has been completely changed to meld into a merciless society of the future, this one is for you.