BBW Day 7: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Friday – Contest to win The Chocolate War
Saturday – The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sunday – Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Monday – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Tuesday – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Wednesday – 12 hour shift at work and sickness =(
Thursday – re-cap of the week so far
Friday – Today’s review of The Handmaid’s Tale

 

The only non-young adult book of the bunch, The Handmaid’s Tale was my first encounter with the works of Margaret Atwood. I read it because the novel was assigned in my grade 11 (I believe, or grade 12. I can’t remember) advanced English class. I liked it, but I don’t think I really got it. Never-the-less, I went on to read her novel Oryx and Crake (probably my favourite non-YA book ever) and was blown away. I once again encountered The Handmaid’s Tale in my ENGL 2232 (Fantasy and Sci-fi class) in my third year of Uni. I got it this time.

 

Handmaid's Tale The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-770-42820-4
Published: 1985
My edition: published in 1998, 416 pages long, Doubleday Canada

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, once the United States of America. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets, where pictures have replaced words because women are fobidden to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember a time when she lived with and made love to her husband, Luke; when she played with an protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

 

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

The Handmaid’s Tale has not been on the Top 10 Challenged Books since at least 2001. The books was on the list in 2005-2006, and 2006-2007 Margaret Atwood has not been on the Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century yet (hopefully never). The Handmaid’s Tale came in at number 37 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999.

Most common reasons that were noted in suggestions for banning were: sexually explicit, offensive to Christians, occult, and anti-religious, mistreatment of women (and men), language, murder, and prostitution.

 

REVIEW…beware of possible spoilers

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those fiction novels that, besides being an amazing story, manages to be a social commentary as well. Margaret Atwood as said that she sees her work more as speculative fiction rather than science fiction, because she takes todays innovations and then picture where they end up years in the future – and that future is usually not very pretty.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, women have been relegated to the status of property once again, only this time it’s worse. Something happened in the United States that left the ability to give birth a rare thing. Somehow (Atwood is notourious at leaving questions unanswered) this situation excelated and evolved into a society where women are in strict classes – the Wives, who have status, if very little; the Handmaid’s, who have viable ovaries and are used as baby-factories; the Marthas, cooks and maids; the Econowives, who get to be Wife, Handmaid and Martha all in one; and the Aunts, who run the centers that “educate” the Handmaid’s. In this new society you’ll also find the Angels, an elite unit of the army that police the nation of Gilead.

Women, besides being second class citizens, have no access to money. They do not hold jobs, they are not allowed to read. The Handmaid’s cannot go anywhere alone, they must always walk about in pairs. Outside of each other, they speak very little. Handmaid’s have no names. The death penalty is rampent in Gilead, and take place during what are called Salvagings – the first we see of this is when Offred and her companion for the day come across a Man’s Salvaging. Doctors who had been hung for performing abortions, even though it was legal at the time they performed them. Later in the novel we get to participate in a Woman’s Salvaging through Offred’s attendence.

Atwood flashes back to the past often, letting us see glimpses of how this new world came about, to see what Offred went through, to see how her story unfolds. Her writing is engaging and smooth and pulls you into the story. She manages to make you scared, angry, sad, hopeful and joyous throughout the course of the novel. Offred, through we never really know who she is, is a character that you feel immense sympathy and compassion for. You want her to escape her life, you wish you could just shout at people for her. She’s real and raw and sometimes you just want to shake some sense into her, even though you mostly just wish you could make things better for her.

Sexually explicit? I suppose. There are definitely scenes that detail what Offred as a Handmaid is required to do, as well as scenes in a “sex club”. Nothing I wouldn’t let anyone over the age of 15 read. Anti-religious? perhaps. There are no churches, there is no religion in Gilead anymore. I don’t necessarily see that as being anti-religious but rather another facet of control that the government as placed on this society. The Handmaid’s Tale is a wonderful novel, and definitely makes you think and feel.

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One thought on “BBW Day 7: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

  1. Pingback: BBW Day 8: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky | Escape Through the Pages

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