On April 26 of this year, Hulu released the first episode of their new original series, “A Handmaid’s Tale.” The show is based on the novel written by Margaret Atwood, which received The Arthur C. Clarke Award and Governor General’s Award for English-Language Fiction and was nominated for the Booker Prize, Nebula Award, and Prometheus Award. But before you go out and watch the show, I highly recommend reading the book. A Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice pick in 1986.
Picture this: the government and president get assassinated and a totalitarian government takes charge, using a sort of warped Christianity to form laws, called the Republic of Gilead. A woman’s worth is now determined by her ability to conceive a child, and skills such as reading and writing are strictly forbidden. Women who are not the wife of a commander have very low status jobs, such as being a handmaid.
Offred, the main character of the novel, is a handmaid who has not yet conceived a child. Her job is to pick up food from the market and be part of a ceremony where the commander she is assigned attempts to impregnate her so she is able to give birth to a baby for the wife. Women like Offred have three tries to become pregnant before being disposed of. Through the story, Offred details her life as a handmaid, while recounting her training and the initiation she went through with her friend, Moira, while they were at the education center.
In her old life, she had a husband, Luke, and a daughter. She hasn’t seen either since they unsuccessfully attempted to flee the country. The plot holds complexity as various scandals involving Offred occur and her understanding of the rebellion taking place broadens.
The utopian novel criticizes how women tend to politically controlled. A big controversy in the U.S. is abortion rights, something that is in the government’s control. Atwood states her disagreement with the government’s complete control of this issue. She also calls attention to the danger of totalitarian governments, explains why people become compliant of oppression, and highlights the importance of language and literature, while addressing rape culture and political religion as well.
Though Atwood’s explanations in the novel may sometimes be confusing, the strong messages and humor fill the gap.
A Handmaid’s Tale is a great read, and definitely should be added to everyone’s reading list. The complex plot makes the book almost impossible to put down and is can be connected to our government today. It’s one of those books that makes you think a little more, which is not a bad thing. So, go to Target, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, and take time to enjoy Margaret Atwood’s novel.
And remember, nolite te bastardes carborundorum.