Dec 11 2005

Handmaid’s Tale

Published by at 3:57 pm under Books

by Margaret Atwood

A short but intriguing book and well worth a read. It is written as autobiographical notes on the life of a “handmaiden” in a post apocalyptic, fragmented USA. An ecological, military, political disaster and coup has led a major part of what was the USA to be under the control of a extremely conservative Christian group (Note this book was written in the mid 1980’s). Men run the country and women’s roles in society are extremely circumscribed and strictly limited to the domestic sphere.

Due to toxins and radiation in the environment human reproduction has become problematic and the birth rate is well below the replacement rate. As a result, a corp of “handmaiden” has been created. Handmaidens are not wives and have no role or responsibility besides procreation with their well placed sponsor/owner whose wife has not produced children. To use a current favorite word, this book describes a feminine dystopia. Women has no rights and handmaiden least of all.

Dissidents get some hope by the potential for escape from Gilead, as the country is called, and by a mysterious underground movement which may or may not have rescued the narrator at the end of the book.

Some context is provided by specific references to feminist rhetoric of the 1970’s and to the mostly Christian based back to family values movement of the period.

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