Welcome back weary adventurers! This week saw the release of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, which means I ran out of excuses and finally read the Handmaid’s Tale! This was my greatest shame book sat on my shelf as both my English and Gender Studies degrees were screaming at me to be educated in this novel’s manifesto.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this novel over the last 30 years? Probably not a lot, but if you are like me and haven’t read it yet, I cannot stress this enough…. read this book. If you have ever doubted the power of books, or wonder why some get banned? Read this book.
I put it off for so long because, at the end of the day, it is completely bleak. It is the epitome of Dystopian fiction, which is always an interesting genre when one can separate themselves from the narrative which is often set in a far off future. However, this book, especially in Trump’s America, has strong relevance to our current political and cultural climate. This novels acts as a reminder to the masses about the power of complacency. It is amazing what the human body can withstand before fighting back. How our own self-preservation kicks in when the ‘it could be worse’ scenario is happening to others around us.
Women around the world have been wearing the iconic red garb in front of municipal buildings, protesting about women’s oppression for the last few years now, and the movement has been gathering more and more media coverage. Real women around the world are waking up to find their rights more restricted than they were yesterday. Old straight white men in governments are telling women what is best for their bodies. Doctors are being ignored by governments, systems are being privatized, women women being denied basic healthcare everywhere.
Therefore, books such as the Handmaid’s Tale seek to act as a form of education for women everywhere. The mere act of reading and educating oneself is a transgression in the novel, and that reminds us that in the grand eras of human enlightenment, women have had access to basic education for a very short period of time.
Not only this, but the novel is set in the background of ecological disaster. We never see the women living in the colonies, living literal half lives in the radiated wastelands. They are the threat used to keep the handmaids in line. Here we see the return of the ‘it could be worse’ themes.
Complacency is the true enemy here. We are a generation, especially in Britain, where we have grown up comfortable in our circumstances. We are are used to a certain expectation of minimum wage, human rights, set holiday time with pay, but it takes a few people sat in a position of power very little effort to change those things and take them away in the name of ‘profit margin’ or ‘paying less tax’.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a spine chilling look at what is to come if we ignore the warning signs. Stay vigilant and ask questions. Read books. Understand what fake news is. Don’t take the media at face value. Most importantly, be kind to one another!
‘Nolite te bastardes carborundorum’