Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

Title: The Handmaid's Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

First Published: 1985

Series: Stand alone

Genre: Classic, Dystopia, Sci-Fi

Available As: Hardcover, paperback, ebook

Pages: 311

My Copy: Physical copy

My Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Goodreads Summary
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

How do I even begin to describe this book?

Offred lives in a totalitarian society where Handmaids have little to no rights. It's quite terrifying to read about the laws and restrictions placed upon them. Their lives seem so bleak and dark. This is like a feminist's worst nightmare. The runnings of Gilead made it uncomfortable to read all in one go, no matter how much I wanted to continue. As I came closer to the end, the idea that Offred is a extremely unreliable narrator hit me. She always seems to be withholding information and parts of her story, especially when she says something along the lines of "I don't like to tell this part". I understand the use of pseudonyms, but everything else is quite dubious.

Offred is quite the complicated character, because she evokes mixed feelings from me. At times, I admire her daring attitude, but other times I find her selfish and weak. Sounds confusing, right? Well, there are times where it's obvious that Offred doesn't like this new society (as she is one of the first generation women who still remember what it was like before - i.e. our modern society) but she does nothing at all - she submissively accepts her role as a Handmaid. It was this reason that I don't really like her, but I can see why she does it: she values her life and safety above anything else. That's normal though.

Who else? Ah, Moira. I quite like her, especially since she is much more vocal about her opinions and very brave. She is like the bright flame of a candle in a gloomy world, but she quickly burnt out. Why do I say this? *spoiler alert* When she attempted escape and was caught, she became a 'Jezebel' (i.e. prostitute) and has given up on everything, determined to spend her last days drinking and entertaining customers. She's happier, but it's slightly disappointing. *spoiler over*

I think in the end, my favourite is Ofglen. The first Ofglen, I mean. She's against Gilead and does try to tell Offred about Mayday, but in the end is futile. I like her quiet, calm rebellion against Gilead, which is contrasted by the loud and fiery Moira. It was sad to see her ending and it seemed like everything was for nothing. How somber can this book get?

The ending is an ambiguous one indeed... I wonder what actually happens to Offred. Is she saved? Or is it all a ruse? I hope she is saved, but it's hard to tell...

The dark plot and morally dubious characters made this book much more of a literary masterpiece. I love this book quite a lot!

My Chosen Quote
“Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.”

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