The Handmaid's Tale Collage

The Handmaid’s Tale: Are You Awake?

When I heard that Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, was going to be made into a TV series for Hulu, I decided to reread it, having initially read it years and years ago. So long ago, in fact, that I really didn’t remember it. I decided to purchase the audiobook with Claire Danes narrating, and she did an excellent job.

Originally published in 1985, the novel is set in a dystopian future where a totalitarian government reigns, where women have no power and no freedom. People are sterile from pollution and STDs. The women who are still fertile are forced to become handmaids. They wear red, cover their heads and are assigned to households where their primary and only duty is to become pregnant and have a baby. The handmaids are named after the man of the house. The protagonist narrating this story is named Offred (of-Fred) because that’s who she belongs to, a commander named Fred. Wives wear blue, Marthas (women servants) wear green. Laws are rigid, trust is fleeting and it’s a lonely world for a handmaid.

Handmaids wear red, cover their heads and are assigned to households where their primary duty is to become pregnant and have a baby. The handmaids are named after the man of the house. The protagonist narrating this story is named Offred (of-Fred) because that’s who she belongs to, a commander named Fred. Wives wear blue, Marthas (women servants) wear green. Laws are rigid, class distinction loom large and trust is fleeting. It’s a lonely world for a handmaid.

Offred can remember the time before¬†when she had a job and a child, her own bank account and a car. Now she belongs to the commander with no choices her own, from what she can wear to what she can say or who she can even talk to. It’s terrifying. And she mentions several times how quickly this change occurred, how quickly everyone adjusted to a new way of thinking.

Women aren’t even allowed to make decisions about their own body or allowed TO READ. This is huge. When people start filtering what you can read, telling you what’s true or not true, not letting you decide for yourself, that’s a red flag. I can’t help but compare it to our current political climate, where we have a president telling us alternate facts and calling news fake if it doesn’t agree with him. That’s terrifying too.

This book is more than a piece of well-written fiction. It serves as a warning. We can’t remain ignorant or asleep or complacent. We need to stay awake.

Have you read the book? Do you plan to watch the TV series?

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