Review | The Handmaid’s Tale


Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Vintage Classics
Release Date: October 07, 2010
First Published: 1985
Series Details: Standalone
Genre: Adult, Classic
Pages: 324

Blurb from Goodreads:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America explores a world in which oppression of women, and repression of the truth, have become justified.

My Thoughts-01

The future is a harrowing nightmare in Margaret Atwood’s chilling yet compelling masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale. In this book, Atwood painted a future that you surely wouldn’t wish to be in. A future wherein women are only valued for their ability to give birth. So as a woman, and a mother, this has totally been a hard one to read. And disturbing. And scary. Just imagine being stripped off of everything you have—from your possessions, your freedom, your rights, down to your name! Imagine being put entirely in the “care” of men that you aren’t even allowed to walk the streets without their permission. It’s infuriating and frightening, this book. But what’s most terrifying about this extraordinary work of fiction is the possibility of it happening in reality.

A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.

Here we see a country, Gilead, under a totalitarian government run by despotic rulers and religious extremists. Obviously, nothing good came out of that combination. And we witness the injustices and the atrocities of this regime through the eyes of our main character, Offred. She is one of the few women with a working reproductive system and in a world that is becoming infertile, women like her are kept and made Handmaids—some kind of surrogate to bear children for powerful men who couldn’t have a child with their wives. There are a lot of things they’re not allowed to do—read, walk the streets alone, be touched by guys other than their current owner—and breaking the rules could mean severe punishments or execution. The wives hate them. The men treats them as mere properties that they can use and discard so easily. Everything was taken away from them that it doesn’t even feel like they still own their own body.

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.

We lived in the gaps between the stories.

With Offred’s limited access to everything, it took a while before I get a full picture of the structure of the society she’s in. For some time I was just trying to figure out what’s going on, what a Martha is, what an Angel does, and how high up in Gilead’s political structure is the Eye? The lack of names also caused a bit of confusion in me at first. But it quickly turned to sadness after realizing why.

In an awful place that’s so cruel especially to women, one would expect every woman in Gilead to unite and fight against their oppressors. Instead, there’s a great divide between them. Just picturing these women being segregated according to their status and being forced to dress only in colors assigned to them is really upsetting. What’s worse is seeing women despise other women—especially Handmaids—because of their role in the society. Having a Handmaid as a narrator we were made aware about all the contempt directed to them from the Wives, the Widows, even from some Marthas. It’s sad and a bit frustrating seeing them judge and hate each other while the true enemy sits unbothered on their cozy chairs.

We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

Also, it’s shocking to see how Offred and almost every character of this book seem to have stopped resisting and eventually just accepted their horrible situations. I only ever saw the fight in Offred’s friend, Moira, which made her my favorite character in this book. I just wished she had inspired more souls because hers was a fight that is impossible to win alone.

The scene with the Handmaids doing their duty is most disturbing. It’s odd, appalling, infuriating. It wasn’t enough that the law is forcing them to have sex with powerful men. It also demands for them to do it in the strangest, most abominable set-up. I was enraged in behalf of the Wives and the Handmaids. This is the book to hunt if you want some blood-boiling read.

Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.

The ending is the most ambiguous ending I’ve encountered so far. Open endings are quite risky, for me. Sometimes it doesn’t work. All those questions left unanswered could ruin the whole book leaving readers annoyed. But this one is done just right and I like how it leaves us truly wondering what Offred’s fate had been after she was picked up by members of the Eye. Or were they really members of the Eye? Did she escape and survive? Or was she taken some place to be punished, lectured, and again prepped for her next posting? After all, she still have working ovaries. Had she escape being a Handmaid only to get trapped in some other nightmare like Moira, or had they sent her to the Colonies to clean up deadly toxic wastes? Worse, had she end up hanging on the Wall—dead and rotting—for everyone to look at? I could imagine a dozen endings for Offred—all of which are equally possible. I’d prefer a positive conclusion for this though. One wherein Offred is free and is living in peace away from Gilead. Or the one wherein she escaped and joined the rebels in their fight against their tyrannical rulers, inspiring others to do the same.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

I did have some subtle issues for the first quarter of the book but as a whole this one is a thought-provoking read. Although it was very eerie, it carries a strong message and it deals with sensitive real life issues accentuating the many forms of abuse and unjustness that women endure everyday. The novel is also rich in emotions. I lost count of how many times it made me feel sad, mad, and terrified—a string of negative emotions, I know. But still, this piece deserves to be read and passed on to next generations. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone though. Because there were parts in the novel that gets violent and some more parts that might be uncomfortable to read especially for those who are sensitive to topics of sexual abuse. Other than that this is a book worth reading.

Three Star Rating-01


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