Tragedy strikes the United States and in an effort to rebuild society, terrifying new measures are implemented, stripping women of their rights as human beings. No longer permitted to work, own property and their identities erased, women have been reduced to their most basic function – carrying life. If they’re unable to conceive, they’re shipped off to the heavily polluted colonies to assist in the cleanup of nuclear waste; a guaranteed death sentence.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale follows Offred, a woman serving under a man known only as The Commander. Having difficulty conceiving, she fears for her safety. Struggling to adapt to her new “life”, Offred tells of her past, how society crumbled and her desire to break free and be reunited with her daughter.
Atwood keeps the reader in the dark for most of the novel when it comes to the pivotal event that caused society’s downfall. While I was initially frustrated (I need to know now!), it proved to be a great technique in keeping me reading for long periods at a time, waiting for that one sliver of information to leak through so I could bring it all together.
However, it turns out that it doesn’t matter. What’s important is the repercussions following the event. There are probably more than a few conservatives who would think this is a logical plan – and that’s what makes Atwood’s novel so frightening. It’s deflating when the pursuit of equal rights in society can often be labeled as “feminism” when in an ideal world, feminism is something that shouldn’t even exist. I know it’s shocking for some to hear this but we’re all equal.
As riveting as The Handmaid’s Tale is, Atwood’s story sadly remains relevant nearly thirty years after it was first published. It’s frustrating to think that in 2014, there are still unnecessary roadblocks set up to keep one sex on a lower plane than the other. I didn’t expect to get on a soapbox here but it’s almost impossible to avoid doing so. While I’m not saying anything you haven’t already heard, neither is Atwood. That fact that it needs to be said again and again is the issue.