We’re at a critical point in time. It’s becoming increasingly clear that as women we will have to fight for freedom, equality and our autonomy. That’s why Margaret Atwood’s gripping story of female subdigation and societal exclusion is having a definitive resurgence.
The story is about a woman named Offred. When a new regime comes into force she goes from living a normal modern American lifestyle to a barren existence as a baby making vessel. Her sole purpose is to produce a child for an affluent couple unable to conceive, at the expense of all joy, human interaction and independent thought.
What I found most striking in Atwood’s writing is the nullification of feeling. The effort Offred goes to to repress all thoughts is suffocating for both here and the reader. Reminiscent of the thought police in 1984 the ‘eyes’ pose an ever present threat. There’s a clear paranoia that a deviant thought could lead to death. This causes the reader to speculate in the same way the characters do, knowledge is sparse, hard won & all information and actions are scrutinised for traps and hidden motives.
We only gain limited information about our handmaiden. The novel shows us a slither of the true horror. It’s a perfect depiction of life under totalitarian control. We get a clear sense of Offred’s feelings, with barely a word on the subject, all to the credit of Margaret Atwood who flawlessly captures emotion in her work. Ultimately Offred is so starved of freedom, that when the opportunity for disobedience arrives she grasps it with both hands. Yet still we’re left with the feeling that she should have done more, and the fear that perhaps we could all be repressed so casually, should someone decide to seize control of our lives.
I feel as though everyone should read this book. I loved the story, but it also awoke in me with a profound sense of anger. Anger that this novel was published in 1985, before I was born, yet the issues are still as relevant today as they ever were. It’s unsurprising that it has become something of a call to arms for protestesters as well as a touchstone for feminism in what is a difficult time for women politically.
Excitingly Margaret Atwood has hinted at the possibility of new matierial being published. After all this time, the Giliad society still may have secrets to tell. It has also been made into a series which will launch on Hulu, 26th April 2017 with Elizabeth Moss as Offred. I think she’s be amazing, having become my fictional spirit animal in her portrayal of Peggy Olson in Mad Men.
How did you feel when you read this?
Are you excited at the possibility of a sequel?