Every week I’ll be sharing what I read with you & please share with me what you are reading to inspire ✨each other and break out of our filter bubbles. What I’m reading 📖 this week: THE HANDMAID'S TALE // Want to know more? Read on!
BOOK VS. SERIES
A DYSTOPIAN TALE
When you flip the first page of the Handmaid's Tale, you immediately get propelled into a new world, which you see through the eyes of the female main character 'Offred', a handmaid. Page by page you understand better what this world, called Gilead, is all about.
Because we have Offred as our voice-over, we learn that we are in the near-future and have moved from a liberal U.S.A. society into a totalitarian one, ruled by men and full of religious driven rituals. Women are stripped of their jobs, family and names. Offred means 'Of Fred', other women are called Offglen, Ofcharles, etc., showing that handmaid's are owned by men.
WHY IS THIS STORY RELEVANT TODAY?
The novel touches upon many relevant issues surfacing in nowadays societies, like white supremacy, Christianity and women's rights.
In present-day U.S.A. these topics, such as female rights, have come to the forefront again. During Trump's presidency for example, legislation on abortion has become more strict. This novel shows one possible future scenario which today's society could evolve into. And it's not a pretty one! At least not for women, who are loosing out in this possible future.
A SNAPSHOT of the novel
Atwood's writing provides an in-depth, personal, human angle on this dystopian future. She has a way with describing the feelings and thoughts of Offred in a profound manner and really make you step into her shoes. Here are some quotes from the book that are interesting references on how disruptive change can almost happen unnoticed.
Snippet by snippet the novel shows how Gilead came into existence, as shown by the quote below. And the scary thing is, this makes so much sense. I could imagine this is how we would also act in The Netherlands: no rioting, just waiting for direction...
"They did it all at once. After they shot the President and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on Islamic Fanatics at the time. Keep calm, they said on television, everything is under control. That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it was temporary. There wasn't even rioting in the street. People stayed at home, watching television looking for some direction. There wasn't even an enemy you could put your finger on."
It takes a generation
The generation of women in Gilead, like Offred, still have memories of different times where women had more freedom. The following quote shows that the creators Gilead are well aware of how change spreads through society:
"You are a transitional generation. It is the hardest for you. For the ones who come after you it will be easier. They will accept their duties with willing hearts. Because they won't want things they can't have."
No reading allowed
In Gilead, women are stripped from all kinds of activities by law, such as reading. This would be hell on earth to me! Offred sometimes get's the chance to secretly read old magazines and I can totally identify with her reading experience:
"On these occasions I read quickly, voraciously, almost skimming, trying to get as much into my head as possible before the next long starvation. If it were eating it would be the gluttony of the famished. If it were sex, it would be a swift furtive stand-up in an alley somewhere."
"It's strange to remember how we used to think, as if everything was available to you, as if there were no contingencies, no boundaries; as if we were free to shape and reshape forever the ever-expanding parameters of our lives."
Looking back from the future on the future
The book has an open end but the epilogue (spoiler alert!) gives us a glimpse even further into the future. A group of academics who study the 'Gilean Period' gathers at a conference to look back on what had happened.
In the quote below one of the professors refers to elements that reminded me of the 'theory of adoption' by Everett Rogers, which I use as a framework to understand the spread of trends in society:
"As we know from the study of history, no new system can impose itself upon a previous one without incorporating many elements to be found in the latter, and Gilead was no exception to this rule."
ATWOOD'S THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE
The popularity of The Handmaid's Tale is no surprise for Atwood, as she sees today as the ultimate moment to use this story as a warning sign. Check the video below to hear her thoughts.