Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Take Tuesday: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 311
Previous Readings: May 2012
Date Completed This Time: 8/30/17

Summary: In a dystopian future, women are seen as little more than vessels for procreation. The protagonist, Offred, has been ripped from her family and forced into service as a Handmaid, a nicer name for Gilead's system of sexual slavery. 

What I Thought Before: When I read this book five years ago, I struggled to put my thoughts into words. I commented specifically on the way the leaders of Gilead twist Scripture to achieve their desired results. I marveled at Atwood's writing skill. I mentioned how much more valuable it felt to read the book as a woman in her twenties because I felt I could better understand what Offred had lost and the gravity of the situation. I rated it five stars.

What I Think Now: This book has really stuck with me. I've thought a lot about its story and messages over the intervening five years. I watched the Hulu adaptation this summer (I should probably do a separate post about that some time). I have been meaning to pick it up again, so I was glad when my book club selected it for one of our fall reads.

Reading it again, now, the story feels even scarier. I don't want to be hyperbolic. While there are women around the world who live in circumstances not that unlike those in the book, we in America are still a ways off. Yet, as Atwood makes clear in the book, the retraction of people's rights is typically a slow process. Things change slowly and then all at once. The presence of a slippery slope does not mean you have to slide down the slope. All that being said, I do think we are sliding. Our political climate is slowly, systematically taking away the rights and privileges of various segments of the population.

Atwood does not go much into racial divides in the book, but I've heard the second season of the Hulu show is going to deal with that more directly after the first season received some criticism for being unnaturally color blind. I'm glad they are going to take on that challenge because I think we are, in some ways, more in danger of a racial dystopia like this than a gender-based one. Don't get me wrong. I'm still extremely worried about how women are viewed by those in power in our country, but I also recognize that women do not stand alone in danger.

I'm very interested to see how my book club discussion about this book goes. We're meeting tonight. There have obviously been a lot of contemporary discussions relating Gilead to the Trump presidency and other modern political figures and movements. So, it'll be interesting to see how much we discuss the book and how much we discuss its current relevance.

As a piece of literature, I still find it utterly brilliant. I just wish it felt a little more improbable. 

Quotes I Loved:
  • "How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation." (talking about the Nazi with the dog)
  • "You can't help what you feel...but you can help how you behave."
Rating: ★★★★★
Will I Re-Read: Yes
Other Books By Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake

A Reduced Review: This classic dystopia has become a cultural symbol for the oppression of women. It also happens to be masterfully written. 

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