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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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22,51252256 (4.11)1384
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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» See also 1384 mentions

English (503)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (520)
Showing 1-5 of 503 (next | show all)
This is one of my absolute favourite books. I love how strong the main character is. The dystopia that is displayed in the novel is not too far from possibility that it makes imagining the situation easier. I love the multitude of mini plots that all intersect with the main character and her struggles as she tries to work them all out. ( )
  momma182 | Jun 23, 2015 |
Wow. This book was terrifying.
Sometime in the future, women are stripped of all freedom and are basically fertility salves to powerful men. Opponents are hung and displayed in public. Women who fail to produce children are sent away to live as "Unwomen" and eventually die horrible deaths.
Ok? Yikes.
There were some startling parallels between what facilitates the breakdown of American society and what is going on in the world right now. I even read a passage about "The President's Day Massacre" on President's Day. *shiver*
I can only hope that no matter what, we would never allow ourselves to get to this point. ( )
  DanielleMD | Jun 20, 2015 |
This grabbed me right away, I was really pulled into the story. I felt the Historical Notes at the end were unnecessary and tacked on. ( )
  encephalical | Jun 14, 2015 |
I did not know the handmaid's tale was a somewhat feminist book but if I had known it would have exceeded my expectations. With that said, Margaret Atwood at times writes like a well-read 15 year old sitting down to write her first short story. The narrative's delivery could not be more unnecessarily dramatic. I may have gotten PTSD while reading that book in my bed/ at the pool. Wtf. ( )
  Proustitutes | Jun 11, 2015 |
I write this review with some trepidation, noting the other 127 reviews and the popularity of the novel. But, as reading and literature is such a subjective endeavor, I will offer my thoughts about this great book.

The Handmaid's Tale is the recounting of one woman's life in the midst of what appears to be a religious and political revolution. The parameters of the revolution are vague because the tale is told in the first person and deals more with Offred's personal suffering and struggle to survive. Offred is a surrogate, enslaved and reprogrammed to provide children to the ruling class, most of whom are sterile. Her movements, diet, and day to day activities are dictated and monitored. But, however her captors try to change and influence Offred's thoughts, they fail and the tale contains a vital thread of thoughts, recriminations, and longings from Offred's past.

The dystopian story, in my mind, is a comment on the politics of power, not so much on the macro or geo-politcial scale, but on the personal and individual scale. Amidst all of the rules and regulations of the Gilead society, the characters are constantly struggling with one another to gain the upper hand in their personal relationships and dealings, each one choosing a different angle to work. Surely there are messages here for us about the power of religion, class society, and gender politics. But, for me, the most striking elements of the story are those dealing with the seesawing relationships between Offred and each of her captors. Atwood's novel ultimately exposes the fragile balance we all try to achieve between our true self, deeply held and protected, and the compromises in life we are willing to make for survival, or in some cases, for the upper hand. Offred, the Commander, his wife, and even many of Offred's friends make choices that help them negotiate the new rules of the Gilead society. But these choices each also have very personal motivations, affecting the dynamics of their relationships in very personal ways.

The novel also has much to say about reality , perception, and the need to control. There is so much in this short work to discover, it's no wonder that it has become such a favorite, as it is sure to bear up under multiple re-reads.

Atwood's writing is never overbearing. She always allows Offred's voice to carry the narrative. Neither is the underlying framework for the story prohibitive, as can be common in dystopian attempts. Rather, Atwood is able to give us a frightening sense of the oppressive ruling government without beating us over the head with the structure or with horrific, detailed accounts of abuse and suffering. While the rules and regulations are laid out and the suffering described, it is always carried on Offred's perspective and always informs her story.

Highly recommended!

5 bones!!!!! ( )
2 vote blackdogbooks | May 9, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 503 (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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