The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, tells the tale of Offred, a handmaid in the republic of Gilead. Once a day, Offred is allowed to leave the home of the Commander and his wife to walk to the market with her fellow handmaid. All stores now use pictures, rather than words, because women are no longer allowed to read. It is an age of declining births, and handmaid’s only value to society is her ovaries.
Offred often thinks back to earlier times when she had a job and earned money, lived and shared a life with her husband Luke, and cared for and nourished their daughter. A time when she was free and able to think for herself. All of that is gone is this new world of repression and social control.
Atwood tells this story with a touch of humor, which helps to soften the horrifying picture of a man-made post-apocalyptic-like environment. At first, I wasn’t sure what the time period was for this novel, but there are plenty of references to the 20th century, which adds to the horror, making one think–“What if that actually happened in our world?”
Both terrifying and convincing, Atwood paints a dystopian scene for her characters. I genuinely felt sorry for most of the characters…even the ones you’re not supposed to like. The new social order, which is supposed to bring harmony and purity back to society, strips humanity of individuality, choice, and knowledge.
This was a great read. I must admit, I knew after starting that the ending would be likely to leave me slightly unsatisfied. There was just no way reconciliation could come about in 300 pages! But I was surprised by how up in the air Atwood leaves the story. The reader is truly left with the opportunity to think and decide for him or herself what they think really happened.