I have so many feels about the Grace/Mary friendship and everything that happened with Mary. HELP!!!!
This is the second time I'm reading Atwood's book, and one of the things that stood out was the fact that an important feature of "The Handmaid's Tale" was that the women in the book are as responsible as the men for the gender roles being enforced. The older women at the place where the protagonist was first held captive were important reinforcers of this. It's like a nunnery or girls school where the older women subjugate the younger. Just take a look at countries where female circumcision takes place for a real world example of how older women act to control the lives, and bodies, of the younger. Also in the book, the rich woman - the military man's wife - who the protagonist acts as a surrogate for, is as much part of the system of enforcing the handmaiden's role as anything.
One of things I find disturbing about people labeling "The Handmaid's Tale" as "feminist" is how easy it makes it to overlook this part of the book. The female characters are an integral part of the system of societal control which brings about handmaidens. It's not a question of "men versus women"; it's a question of two different ideas about how society should function.
This to me is feminism's Achille's Heel - you're never going to get wholesale buy in from wide sectors of society when there's this undercurrent of 'blame the men' - particularly, as young pips like me will just be left feeling alienated by being blamed for something which predates our existence. Atwood was trying to highlight how roles are reinforced by both genders - and in the case of "The Handmaiden" show how within a generation a change could happen for the worse. The corollary would be that change within a generation for the better should be possible too, but it will need buy in from a majority for it to happen.
If you're into SF, read on.
In Seeing Further, New York Times bestseller Bill Bryson takes readers on a guided tour through the great discoveries, feuds, and personalities of modern science. Already a major bestseller in the UK, Seeing Further tells the fascinating story of science and the Royal Society with Bill Bryson’s trademark wit and intelligence, and contributions from a host of well known scientists and science fiction writers, including Richard Dawkins, Neal Stephenson, James Gleick, and Margret Atwood. It is a delightful literary treat from the acclaimed author who previous explored the current state of scientific knowledge in his phenomenally popular book, A Short History of Nearly Everything.
“Don't let the bastards grind you down.”
The future fucking sucks.
That's one of the lines from the promotional posters from The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu, and it's a good way to set the tone between the two works. While they both carry the same chilling version of a Dystopian (but still too close to home to be comfortable) future, the series has more of an aggressive tone, more of a willingness to bring it's evils down. The most noticeable of impact of that is June. Or, I should say, Offred. Because in the book, we never really learn Offred's true name, while in the series we receive it on the first episode.
They are different, but both of them are amazing interpretations. I recommend fans of the book to watch the show and fans of the show to read the book. I really loved both.
Back to our main character, Book Offred is very passive. Almost infuriatingly so, at times, until you remember she is simply a product of the extremely oppressive society that surrounds her. She has barely any fight left on her, because it was dragged away. And she is pale in comparison to other characters in the book, other man and other women, because Offred shows how deep the bleak world can cut someone who is simply normal (tv series Offred is tougher, because otherwise the series would be a little too slow for 10 chapters).
“Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some."
The Handmaid's Tale is a bone chilling book, a future where all minorities get permanently crushed under the boots of the ruling ones, but the true horror of the plot doesn't come on what's spoken. It comes on the chill horror of that which we never know. What happened to that one character? Where does the road lead, in the ending? We never know, and that's even more terrifying. Because our minds can take a hint. All we can conjure by our own is scarier than what the author could have told us.
This book is very topical. It was topical in 1985, and it's topical now. The true scary beings aren't the ones that are hidden under our beds, it's the very real ones that cross the street in front of us everyday. Not all humans are monsters, but all monsters are human.
The biggest character in the book isn't even our narrator. It's the unity. The unity of those that choose to fight against the power that holds them down, with very small gestures, or even bigger gestures. But still, they stand. It cannot end well. But it's better than no action at all.
“I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to it, this wanting.”
Sentence: There isn't much I can say that hasn't been said before. But this is an amazing book, it's terrifying in the most subtle way, and it will jump at you when you're least expecting it. When it does... enjoy the ride.