I was very apprehensive to read this book. People rave about it, and the injustices about women. They talk of feminism, a lot. But that’s not what I got from this book. The Handmaid’s Tale didn’t anger me like I thought it would, it reminded me of when I read The Bell Jar and I just didn’t quite get what shook people so much. It’s a weird sensation having feelings toward a book that are not common ones. And while I am against what it had to say about Christianity and the way it would twist scripture around to fit the agenda, I preferred to read it as dystopian and leave it at that.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, takes place in a futuristic time in the country of Gilead (which seems to be the “new” America). Babies are scarce and as a result, husbands and wives who have not reproduced bring a “handmaid” into their home for the husband to try and impregnate in order to grow their family and the human population.
Let’s go a little deeper and add some details, like that the wife lays with the handmaid when she’s intimate with the husband, and again when the handmaid is birthing the baby, or that the handmaids don’t have any rights to their baby aside from breastfeeding and once that’s over they are moved to a different home to try and have a baby for another family.
Aside from the sexual part of the story, there are mass hangings of people who break the law, handmaids have to wear hats that have bowed out wings so they are nearly forced to look ahead and not in other directions, an analogy for their life. Don’t look back. Only look forward. Because, after all, becoming a handmaid was their “choice.” And how can I forget, they do not allow women to learn to read. Brutal.
Another hot topic for The Handmaid’s Tale is that of religion. Christianity is the only faith mentioned in this text, (but it’s not the only faith that’s been distorted) because this book is a blatant attack on the faith using the Old Testament. Personally I feel that additionally the Mormon faith was attacked for their past with polygamy and Islam with respect to Sharia law.
How I actually feel about the book as a whole? If you can separate from your faith while you read, go ahead. If not then I would pass on this one, there are other dystopian books that do not attack the faith that fill the same shoes.