Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I just finished The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and it leaves me with mixed emotions. It is a well crafted novel in the dystopian genre. It is set in the United States after Christian fanatics have taken over the United States and rid the country of its ‘evils’. Women have no rights in the society. Most women have been left sterile, so those that are fertile are used by the upper class to produce children. I know she was trying to promote feminist ideals, but I found myself feeling just as sorry for the men in this story. Nobody was happy. The wives were jealous of the handmaids, the handmaids were being used, the husbands were forced to procreate without any of the pleasures of a sexual relationship. No one won.

Now on to my problems. Upon reading many reviews at Amazon, I found that the prevalent idea is conservative Christianity is in danger of committing these same atrocities today. I don’t know if this was Margaret Atwood’s intent, or if it just came across that way. I find it interesting that after reading a book like this, people’s first reaction is to silence the religious right. It’s O.K. for my rights to be eroded and to take my freedom away as a conservative. I can’t say that their lifestyle choice is wrong, but they can say mine is. It seems a bit hypocritical. The Christianity touted in this book (and most places) is not at all what the bible teaches. Christianity is not an anti-female religion. In fact, it is one of few religions where women come to God on equal footing with men. The Bible does not teach that a woman is inferior, and definitely not that we are just to be used as breeders. I believe that true freedom means freedom for all. Does that mean I might get my feelings hurt sometimes? Absolutely. But if we’re really free, I can say what I want about you, and you can say what you want about me.

Feminism is also a big push in this book. As I stated earlier, I didn’t feel the suppression of females in this book. I felt it was more of a suppression of everyone. Yes, the women had no freedom, but the men had very little freedom, as well. Sure, you could argue, they had more freedom. But lack of freedom is lack of freedom. Consequently, I didn’t walk away from this book with the ‘I hate men’ idea I felt I was supposed to have. I don’t like male bashing any more than I like female bashing. And yet this is the norm in feminist literature. Forget equality…they’re going for superiority.

This book was a good read. I recommend you read it and see what you think for yourself.

First line … “We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.”

Last line … “And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.”



  1. I read this book years ago in college. I was a "mature" student - an adult - and it was funny to listen to the reactions of the just-out-of-highschool gals. They spouted all the fashionable anti-male and anti-Christian rhetoric we hear today. Yet I read that over 15 years ago! Today we are in far greater danger from Islamists*, but Christian bashing is still the norm. This book put me off M. Atwood forever...

    *Not generalizing about all Muslims, just the ones who profess their desire to rule the world.

  2. I think that was Atwood's point, too. She wasn't generalizing about Christians, just the ones who profess their desires to rule the world. Remember, Quakers and Roman Catholics were also victims in _The Handmaid's Tale_.

  3. I felt that everyone in this society was suppressed, just like you mentioned. No one had freedom in this society, even those who had a higher position in this society. Although some characters were able to attain things others couldn’t, everyone was restrained from doing the things they used to do.


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