The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood published in 1985. Offred is a woman in her thirties who has been placed in a house to conceive a child for the commander and his wife. She is what they call a handmaid. She wears a long red dress and a white veil. She has been placed there after a totalitarian regime came to power. They claim that women have to make babies and repopulate the planet (birth rates have been going down for multiple years) and this is their purpose and destiny. We follow the life of Offred and what she thinks of her new life. Her daily shopping with another handmaid, her life in the house, her exchange with the Marthas who take care of the house and her monthly sex ritual with the commander in the presence of his wife in the hope to get pregnant. We also have flashbacks of her previous life, before the current regime came to power. We have memories of her husband Luke , her daughter and of her bestfriend Moira. There is also a recollection of when credit card stopped functioning for woman, when she and her family tried to escape the country. We have a glimpse of how the regime imposed itself and how people reacted.
What really fascinated me in this book was to see how quickly people get used to a bad situation. They adapt themselves even when their lives and freedom get triggered. There is not much resistance from people who are suffering from the changes that the totalitarian regime did to them. It is quite frightening to imagine the same phenomenon happening to our own society.
Offred also feels that there is no such thing as a resistance because she can’t trust anyone. She can never tell who is on her side. Who is a true believer and who is a resistant. She is always scared to be betrayed by an Eye. She is then alone in this horrifying world with no more than a few allies. The idea of conspiracy and betrayal is strong in this novel.
The severe lack of freedom is also a huge point of the novel. Women can’t read or write. They can’t be in love or express opinions. They have a precise role in society. Everything is aimed at making more babies and repopulate the planet. We can figure out that this is accually a pretext to control everybody. What is stricking about that is that people soon believe most of what the regime says. Having a baby is seen as a blessing, always. Everyone becomes rapidly obsessed with repopulating the planet. It questions the influence that may have a regime and how easily most people may crush their principles when survival is at stake.
I really enjoyed the scenes when Offred was in the center to be trained. It shows the process of women being brainwashed and obliged to accept their destiny without rebellion.
A TV show adaptation of the Handmaid’s Tale will be released soon. I am really exited to see it! Have you read the book? Will you watch the TV show?
See you soon