Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Read 9/8/15 to9/22/15)

This was September's BOTM read.
The Handmaid's tale is set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population. The story is told from the point of view, of a Handmaid, Offred. Her job is to be an incubator of sorts, she has a history of being fertile, so it is her role to produce a child for a Commander and his Wife, in a strict biblical sense.
Because I didn't fully understand the social structure I did a little research and I found a great synopsis of the women's social class on

The highest class of women is the “Wives”—those married to officials and other elite. Wives may adopt or naturally acquire “Daughters”, while all others seek the service of Handmaids. Domestic duties of ruling-class households are undertaken by typically older and infertile subservient women known as “Marthas.” Forming the middle-class are “Econowives.” This group of fertile women is married to the non-elite and performs all domestic duties, such as childrearing and cooking. The most autonomous class is the “Aunts”—literate, unmarried and infertile women who train and watch over the Handmaids. The remaining women who cannot integrate into this social order are deemed “Unwomen” in the eyes of the state and banished to the forced labor camps, where the unlucky suffer a slow death cleaning up toxic chemicals.

I liked the book. Was I frustrated that we never found out what happened, a little. But there were the historical notes, and I got it. She wanted it to be like a piece of History. Like Anne Frank's diary. A snapshot, not a full story. In a way I think it made me think more, it made me focus more on the issues Atwood wanted brought to life, and less on the character. I feel like the true purpose was the social commentary on where she feels society is going, which per the BBC interview she still feared as of 2002, and the character was actual unimportant besides being a way to relay the message.
The message was to not give up our civil liberties to protect us from a fear, that can lead to repression and/or Totalitarianism. In the interview she said she finds things currently happening in our country disturbing, for example the Eyes in the book use the eye symbol from the dollar bill as their logo, so does homeland security. I get it, I can see how she would be fearful. The rise of the tea part, and all the legislation that has been tried to be passed that removes the separation of state and church, I get it. Atwood saw things that disturbed her about our country and our society (remember this was written in the Regan years). And she used the medium she had and knew to express her concerns. All the how's are not important, if it was like Anne Frank's Diary, the reader would know the general facts anyways. I think the book is more about the message and not about the how's or the characters.
Maybe it's just me but after reading any of the parts where Offred discusses being separated from her daughter I had to go sit with mine to calm down.  Is it a mommy thing?  I also had trouble sleeping those nights and would have to check on the kids multiple times.  I read the kindle version and I liked it so much I feel the need to add as a paperback to my shelves, I finished and immediately bought from Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment