Jul 09 2019

Opening The Handmaid’s Tale

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I have to admit that most times I hate the introductions of books and find them to be pointless and well read a little bit and then just skip over them. However, not with the introduction to The Handmaid’s Tale. I felt the intro gave a real insight on what to look for in the following pages and most unexpectadley what not to look for. Margaret Atwood poses three main questions, which she mainly responds to with..”depends on your definition.”

1st: A feminist’s novel?

This is the question that clicked with me the most and still keeps me on my toes as I read. Atwood defines women as “human beings – with all the variety of character and behavior that implies – and are also interesting and important and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure, and plot.” The importance of women is described in the following paragraphs and highlights the fact that no matter what anyone says woman can not be overlooked. In current times, it’s not hard to find a group to rally behind that supports this image, but in the context of this book it can be. Atwood chose to face this fact and point of controversy in society head on from the very beginning and made me think of her as a bold writer.

More importantly than my takeaway of her definition of women was an understanding that this book was not written directly for the purpose of pushing a feminist, anti-religion, or prediction agenda. Knowing that left me wondering what the purpose of this novel is. Currently 6 chapters in, I am thinking perhaps this novel is about power in unexpected places.

Although the women in this society on a surface view are given little, to no power/control, when you delve into the inner-workings of this society they hold an abundance of power/control. The most obvious way is due to their role in society to reproduce. Without the women, whatever agenda this society/government has could not be completed without the fertility of women. Women in this society have power among themselves mentally. Offred states very clearly early on that through all of the trials she is faced with “I intend to last” and works each day to do just that (pg 8).

The women within this society have power over one another. This is seen in the first seen with Rita and Cora disagreeing about being a handmaid. Near the end of the discussion Rita states “better her than me” (pg 10). This statement led me to think back to when Margaret Atwood was discussing how women can fight for power and potentially tear one another down when grasping for power where they are unlikely to receive it due to society’s standards. Offred had the ability to make the commander’s wife tense and feel the need to assert her place in the household and her domance over Offred blatantly. Pregnant women in the society have the power to make the other handmaid’s jealous and vile.

Women in this society hold the power to stir up men with just a glance. As Offred walks through town with Ofglen, she locks eyes with a young guardian. Offred is not unaware or shy to the affect she and women in general can have on men in this society. Offred takes advantage of the “power of  a dog bone” and teases the young guards (pg 22).

What other purposes is Atwood looking to reach through this novel?

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May 02 2019


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So glad to have you on this blog site to share your thoughts from our books.  Email me with any questions!

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