The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

This intense and heavy story had me hooked from the first chapter. I was immediately pulled into Atwood’s dystopian future of a world where women have no choices and are controlled by the greed of men. 

As a woman, this book hit close to home with every action and decision made for these women who had no choice but to follow along or be sent to their deaths. The main character, Offred, is offered only one option: breeding. 

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those books that you overlook until you read it and then you’ll never forget about it. It was a traumatic, vivid story of a woman whose life has been ripped apart for breeding. 

Plot

In a dystopian future, a Second American Civil War has taken place. The result is the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that enforces harsh social roles and enslaves the few remaining fertile women. In an age of declining births, women are essential in maintaining the human population. 

Offred is one of these few women and she is bound as a Handmaid, forced to produce children for high-leveled men and their families. 

Pulled away from her husband, her child, her life, Offred clings to the memories of her past as she is forced once a month to lie on her back and let the Commander make her pregnant. She recalls happy memories, bringing them to life in her mind, remembering the freedom she once had, forcing her to survive the life that she is jailed into living. 

Characters

Offred’s character was mysterious from the beginning. Her story was never easy and it was hard to follow along while she was forced to use her body to stay alive. As a woman, her body was being used for the world’s benefit and as she recalled all of her past memories, the traumatic scenes became deeper and more intense. With each forgotten memory, Offred brings something of her past to relate to and she creates a world where her long lost husband and child still exist, bringing them to life with each step she takes. 

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

As a character who is experiencing corruption with each day, her only chance of survival is recalling her family and loved ones who she isn’t even sure exists anymore. She is part of severe injustice, and her life isn’t her own, controlled by the men of the world. 

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Moira, Offred’s longtime friend, displays power throughout her fight against the republic with any chance that she gets. She was my favorite character throughout the book, with each scene of her being strong and independent, able to fight against the republic that holds her down. Her repeated attempts of escape from the world of men serves as a symbol for each character in the book. She inspires Offred and often is the center of Offred’s belief that there are better things in the world and she might escape too. However, Moira changes Offred when they meet later in the book. Moira’s attitude towards the republic and the fact that she’s changed her mind and is now content in her role is something that Offred can’t seem to grasp, ruining her inspiration and belief in the greater good. 

There is also Offred’s mother, who serves as a feminist throughout the story. Her strong standing ideas are something that Offred recalls on a daily basis, thinking through the life that her mother used to live when she would stand up for female rights. It’s something that now, in Offred’s life, doesn’t exist, and she wishes that there were someone to fight with her as she recalls memories of the mother that drilled feminism into her mind as a child. 

Setting

I think the setting might be the most important aspect of the entire book. In a world where the president of the United States and most of Congress has been assassinated, a radical and religious group takes control of the government. Before long, this group has eradicated women’s rights, giving their money over to their male next of kin’s or husbands. 

“We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”

Throughout the book we see glimpses of what life used to be for Offred and her family, freedom and cigarettes, drinking for women, and working wherever they wished. Now, Offred is forced into being a Handmaid, repopulating the world. 

Every woman is forced to live under a man’s rule with no choice. Their money is transferred, their lives are in the men’s hands. 

Writing

Atwood’s writing was incredible. I was sucked into the story from the first chapter and while this was such an intense and heavy book, I found myself really enjoying it. The chapters were short and concise, giving me the details that I needed to understand what was going on, and nothing more. I loved how the narration would be Offred’s life now then a flashback of her old life and how everything happened. 

“I am not your justification for existence.”

In Conclusion… 

This was a book full of intense literary themes. Feminism, sexualism, power. I loved watching these characters on their traumatic journeys through a life full of dictatorship, flashing back to memories of the past and surviving the lives they are forced to live. It was a powerful book with meaningful narration that kept me going through the entire story. 

Rating: 5⭐

About the Author

Maya

Maya is an eighteen-year-old psychology student that loves to read a range of genres of books. She also loves to write her own stories and is working on the second draft of her first novel.

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