Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, 1985 (388 pages)

I picked up a copy of this book at the used book store in Friday Harbor last weekend (when we ended up waiting near the Ferry terminal for 6 hours, waiting to get on the boat back to the mainland). It's been on my "to be read" list for awhile now, but I realized when I began reading, that I really hadn't known anything about it. I actually thought it was a relatively new I was surprised to see that it was originally published in 1985!

The story takes place at some point in the not-too-distant future, in what used to be the United States. A revolution has taken place, and society is now completely different. We never actually learn the narrator's real name, although she is known as Offred. In this society, women have very few rights. They are not allowed to read, and all women have been classified into strict categories: Econowives (although this section isn't really explained well), Marthas (basically cooks and housekeepers), Wives ("married" to high ranking officials known as Commanders), and Handmaids. In this society, fertility is extremely valuable, and the Handmaids are given to Commanders whose Wives have been unable to bear children. As the title says, this book is the story of one of these Handmaids.

This is a very well-written book, and it's scary to think that the things that happen in this dystopian society have actually happened (or are happening) to women around the world. It's also scary to see how easily the change in society happened in the book. I'd like to think something like this could never happen in the U.S., but could it?
Total number of books read in 2009: 31
Total number of pages read in 2009: 11667

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