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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (original 1985; edition 1986)

by Margaret Atwood

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22,64353255 (4.11)1393
Title:The Handmaid's Tale
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Seal Books, McLelland and Stewart Limited
Collections:Your library
Tags:Modern Canadian Lit., Writing by Women

Work details

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

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    sparemethecensor: The Handmaid's Tale is the classic forerunner to dystopic fiction of sexist futures. When She Woke picks up the mantel with a more modern version of a misogynistic theocracy taking over government. Both show terrifying futures for the state of women in society.… (more)
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English (511)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (2)  Finnish (2)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (529)
Showing 1-5 of 511 (next | show all)
Having read this in the same year as hearing about the "Quiverfull Movement" and watching the documentary "Jesus Camp", I'm more than a little shaken. I am as disturbed and fearful as when I read 1984. Read this article from NPR (or listen to it, link provided):

In Quiverfull Movement, Birth Control Is Shunned
by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

'Womb Is A Powerful Weapon'
That's also the hope of Nancy Campbell, a leader of the Quiverfull movement and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply.
"The womb is such a powerful weapon; it's a weapon against the enemy," Campbell says.
Campbell has 35 grandchildren. She and her husband stopped at six kids, and it is her great regret.
"I think, help! Imagine if we had had more of these children!" Campbell says, adding, "My greatest impact is through my children. The more children I have, the more ability I have to impact the world for God."
A Christian God, that is. Campbell says if believers don't starting reproducing in large numbers, biblical Christianity will lose its voice.
"We look across the Islamic world and we see that they are outnumbering us in their family size, and they are in many places and many countries taking over those nations, without a jihad, just by multiplication," Campbell says.
Still, Quiverfull is a small group, probably 10,000 fast-growing families, mainly in the Midwest and South. But they have large ambitions, says Kathryn Joyce, who has written about the movement in her book Quiverfull: Inside The Christian Patriarchy Movement.
"They speak about, 'If everyone starts having eight children or 12 children, imagine in three generations what we'll be able to do,' " Joyce says. " 'We'll be able to take over both halls of Congress, we'll be able to reclaim sinful cities like San Francisco for the faithful, and we'll be able to wage very effective massive boycotts against companies that are going against God's will.' "

This is actually happening! This is not fiction, while Atwood's handmaid is fictional. Her novel is hauntingly prescient.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading something so well written, so lush with metaphor and symbolism, so many ideas to explore, so many levels of meaning to contemplate. Even the protagonist's name is loaded. The ideas I'm fixating on presently, immediately after finishing, include:

a) Suicide--I kept seeing it as a more noble means of coping with her situation, but in the end the message was clear that it would have been stupid, stupid, stupid. Ofglen's life and suffering for naught--she hanged herself when she saw the van, but we now know that the van was clandestinely her salvation! I'm wondering about our ability to cope, adapt, accept, change perspective, survive, revolt, sacrifice, persevere. What would I have done in her shoes?

b) The possibility of us all standing by and allowing our society to become totalitarian right under our noses (so probable). Just look at the Patriot Act and other violations of civil rights in the name of safety/security. I loved the new way of phrasing the whole freedom vs. security conflict: the government was able to sell oppression as simply a change from "freedom to" to "freedom from". It doesn't seem so bad that way...I could buy that slogan for a minute, and that terrifies me.

c) My adjustment into a cash-free lifestyle. I love the fact that I don't have to carry cash anymore, everything being electronic. When she went to buy cigarettes and all of a sudden was told that her card was denied and she tried to deal with it by calling the bank only to get a recording for days on end, I felt nauseous. How easy would it be for me to lose everything if the government wanted to take it? I'm so vulnerable...I'm back to cash (Thanks, Atwood!) I realize that I'm too comfortable and take too much for granted.

If nothing else, this novel helps remind you to pay attention and cherish every freedom we still have. An old tee-shirt slogan comes to mind: "If you're not horrified, you're not paying attention!" I couldn't have agreed more in college. Now, I try to focus on the positive and as a result, I have tunnel vision and am less and less horrified. Maybe I'll remember to be horrified when I'm bound within a red dress. The novel screams, "Wake Up! Pay attention!" Although, what good did it do her mother and Moira? See? This novel is going to have me awake all night, thinking!
( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
It took a little while for me to get into it, but once I was it was really quite gripping. I really enjoyed the way that little bits of detail where slowly revealed to build up the whole picture. The ending also was quite different from how I thought it would be and felt quite suitable given the circumstances of the rest of the story.

I would definitely look into other works by the author. ( )
  fothpaul | Aug 9, 2015 |
I read this when it first came out, more than 20 years ago. I didn't have the perspective or wit to understand it very well, but I found it spellbinding anyway.

Rereading it has been valuable, to say the least. Especially given how much more attention I'm paying these days to politics. So: are we stripping women of their rights by reducing them to their reproductive organs, or reducing them to their reproductive organs by stripping them of their rights?

I remember feeling devastated by the afterword the first time I read the novel. It happened again this time, and I'm in a better position to see why. I won't say much since it really is a surprise, but I do know that Atwood was a university professor at the time she was writing this novel, and you can tell how closely she was listening to her colleagues. These last few pages were the only possible words that could have made this book even more devastating than it already was by virtue of its premise. I felt as if the narrator's life had been dismissed and destroyed once again, this time by the sort of people she should have been able to count on for sympathy and assistance.

( )
  Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
Uma descrição pela mulher sofredora duma sociedade totalitária e tirânica que utiliza as mulheres com capacidades reprodutoras para terem os filhos das outras que não os podem ter. São escravizadas em casas apenas para fins reprodutores. Um livro sufocante com ligações bíblicas e muito crítico e corrosivo relativamente a regimes totalitários absolutistas. Por vezes muito difícil de ler, mas brilhante peça literária desta autora. ( )
  bruc79 | Jul 31, 2015 |
I've had to read this book for my Literature course at college, and I honestly I just can't like it, I find the whole dystopia and story has potential but I just don't feel it's the book for me. It tended to bore me, however I do see why someone may like it. ( )
  r0byn | Jul 30, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 511 (next | show all)
As a cautionary tale, Atwood's novel lacks the direct, chilling plausibility of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. It warns against too much: heedless sex, excessive morality, chemical and nuclear pollution. All of these may be worthwhile targets, but such a future seems more complicated than dramatic. But Offred's narrative is fascinating in a way that transcends tense and time: the record of an observant soul struggling against a harsh, mysterious world.
added by Shortride | editTime, Paul Gray (Feb 10, 1986)
How sad for postfeminists that one does not feel for Offred-June half as much as one did for Winston Smith, no hero either but at any rate imaginable. It seems harsh to say again of a poet's novel - so hard to put down, in part so striking - that it lacks imagination, but that, I fear, is the problem.
It's a bleak world that Margaret Atwood opens up for us in her new novel, ''The Handmaid's Tale'' - how bleak and even terrifying we will not fully realize until the story's final pages. But the sensibility through which we view this world is infinitely rich and abundant. And that's why Miss Atwood has succeeded with her anti-Utopian novel where most practitioners of this Orwellian genre have tended to fail.

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Atwoodprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Battey, FrancesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibthorp, FletcherCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

And she said, Behold my maid Bihah, go in unto her, and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her
-- Genesis 30:1-3
But as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal. . .
-- Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal
In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones.
-- Sufi proverb
For Mary Webster and Perry Miller
First words
We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.
As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and, try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our own day.
Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of sand, left by a careless child too near the water.
The shell of the egg is smooth but also grained; small pebbles of calcium are defined by the sunlight, like craters on the moon. It's a barren landscape, yet perfect; it's the sort of desert the saints went into, so their minds would not be distracted by profusions. I think that this is what God must look like: an egg. The life of the moon may not be on the surface, but inside.
But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control...Maybe it's about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.
There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia, freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.
Last words
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Disambiguation notice
The Reading Guide Edition is the substantial equivalent the main Handmaid's Tale work, with a few additional pages of questions for groups to consider at the back. Please therefore leave these works combined together. Thank you
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Wikipedia in English (6)

Book description
From the back of the book: Offred is a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the commander and his wife once a day to walk to food market whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offredd and the other handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offredd can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke, when she played with and protected her daughter, when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…..
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038549081X, Paperback)

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:22 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

A look at the near future presents the story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, once the United States, an oppressive world where women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 13 descriptions

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