I devoured, in the most literal sense or whatever, The Handmaid’s Tale. This dystopian depiction of a sad, alternate, maybe future reality was my undoing for about two days, because that’s how long it took me to finish reading this gem. Basically, after what was about 10 or 12 hours of violent torture, psychological in manner, I finished the masterpiece of Margaret Atwood.
To say it defies society is the least of your problems. With a material that echoes the depths of 1984 and Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of an unnamed woman appointed as a (shocker!) handmaid in the house of a Commander, in order to (real shocker!) bear his children.
If the depiction of the sanitary sex scenes won’t perturb you, I really don’t know what will. If you find amusing the living arrangement of an old wife with the assigned mistress, I’m pretty sure your sense of humor is faulty. If you think religious power is the best, then maybe this book spells out the best future for you, so maybe you should give it a go.
But above all else, Margaret Atwood‘s piece transcends its bleak tones and finds a way to leave an impression on you.
The unnamed protagonist and narrator, identified as Offred – because she belonged to Fred (get it?!), goes back and forth to a past when she was allowed to read, have a job, disagree with her husband and raise her child, as opposed to a present time diluted by war, famine, infertility and religion.
Everything is just survival, but not the „zombies gonna getcha” type. People learn to survive the rule of not speaking unless asked to, women learn that they are only walking wombs, coquetry is not permitted, of course, and neither are alcohol, tobacco and coffee. Clothes are meant to inspire chastity, legs are not meant to be shaven and eyes are bound to look only down.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a difficult read, especially for someone that enjoys the benefits of a colorful wardrobe, as opposed to the „uniforms” presented in the book, and the mere triviality of having money and use them as you please seems distant and obliterated in this book.
Offred‘s prison-like room sometimes reminded me of Winston‘s apartment in 1984, and her thoughts loudly reflected his. With great terror I assisted to a very misogynist way of living, one that scared and scarred me, and Offred‘s thoughts were so female-like, that sometimes I thought „am I that crazy? am I truly like that? are all women like that?!”.
Margaret Atwood surprised in an indecent Polaroid of the times the hate, the fear, the magical behind the reason of being a woman, and she did this effortlessly beautiful.
Here’s to never having the chance of experiencing this.