Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

A review by Emily.

The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood in 1985, is a story that eerily parallels events in our world today… but goes a step further to describe our worst nightmares turned reality. In the tale, the United States is at war with Islamic Radicals who have laid out chemical attacks leaving 25 percent of the population sterile. The new regime of the U.S. ironically decides to oppress its women in order to propagate the human race by making it illegal for them to read and hold jobs or property. The fertile women called “Handmaids” are ordered to be clad head to toe in red puritan robes and bonnets and are assigned households to serve a master. They are abused and submitted to servitude by putting the fear of God in all of them. It is a dystopian society where the women are forced to be suspicious of each other so they can never unite against their oppressors. Their identities are anonymous, being named after their household’s master and are renamed when their ownership is exchanged.

The tale is written as a stream of consciousness that jumps back and forth between story plot and its main character Offred’s ruminations. This makes the main character relatable and underscores her loneliness and isolation but leads to a storyline with no real momentum. The story lacks backstory which would have helped to explain the main character’s motives and emotions. A more in-depth backstory also would help us feel perhaps a little less disappointed in a character that is less than a heroine and at times seems pathetic; character development that would have added tremendous value to it as a way to contrast and highlight the main character’s present suffering.  Also, character development of the people she interacts with would have added another layer to the story and may have led us to feel the true depth of Offred’s helplessness as those close to her disappoint and betray her.

Atwater’s work lays the foundation for the abysmal and intriguing new world order which MGM/Hulu’s TV series The Handmaid’s Tale adapts. It satisfies the character building and backstory that the book lacks and casts Offred in a more heroine-like role that we can admire. The MGM series takes us on a more fulfilling journey into her world and moves us beyond the stage that Atwater has set.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

We may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. Read our full disclosure here.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

  1. Thanks for reviewing such an important book! I’m a little confused about your comment about the U.S. being at war with Islamic terrorists. In the book, the fundamentalists are most likely Christian. I haven’t seen the series yet, but used to teach the book. Did you read the book after watching on TV? Just curious because your view is quite different from those I heard in the 90s.

    Like

  2. Victoria says:

    The author’s name is Margaret Atwood, not Atwater. I disagree with the review on several points. In my opinion, there is no need for a personal backstory for Offred. The omission of that information increases the tension of the situation in which she is forced to dwell, and how she copes with the betrayal of an entire gender by her government. The end of the novel and return to ‘normalcy’ is more important as it assigns the episode to history as people attempt to discern how in the world it could possibly have occurred. The story is a cautionary tale with regard to our current political morass and the direction in which things are going.

    Like

Leave a Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s