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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (original 1985; edition 2006)

by Margaret Atwood

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24,34261345 (4.11)1495
Title:The Handmaid's Tale
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Cornelsen Verlag GmbH C (2006), Paperback, 136 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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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» See also 1495 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 591 (next | show all)
Set in an unlikely but not impossible alternate America, this is a powerful and chilling tale of a land dominated by religion. Executions for are common. Suspicion is universal. There is no joy, no love, no freedom, and no choice...especially for women. They are essentially property. They cannot own anything themselves. They are not even allowed to read. All they may have, all they may know comes from the men who dominate their lives.

The story takes the form of an account by a woman who was a handmaid, part surrogate womb, part passionless concubine, whose only role in society is to provide a baby to a family that the wife and husband cannot conceive on their own. Her only power, her only choice is to comply or kill herself, which would be difficult in that she is not allowed access to sharp objects or anything else that might assist her in this.

It's a frightening and cautionary story, although not one to my personal taste. I tend to prefer fiction that follows interesting characters overcoming difficulties. This is more of a tale of a fairly drab character attempting to cope by resigning herself to a difficult situation. It has more angst, more 'woe is me' reflections, than I normally care for. I am angered by the world portrayed and sad for the characters living in it, but that's not what I normally turn to fiction to provide. There is enough in nonfiction to alarm me. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
You have to love a novel when one of the subversive and dangerous acts is playing a game of Scrabble.

Atwood’s dystopian feminist classic is chilling, scary, and claustrophobic. She paints a picture of an America in which a fundamentalist religious group has taken control, and because of widespread sterility caused by genetic experiments and a toxic environment, invoke Genesis 30:1-3, and have men of status take handmaids for reproductive partners.

The indoctrination of the handmaids, the strict regulations which govern them, and the violent rituals they must partake in are disturbingly believable. Part of the eeriness of the novel is that, despite what seems to be improbable, we realize it could happen. Militants take control after infiltrating the highest levels of government security, assassinating not only the President, but also the entire Congress. Just replace the ‘machine guns’ they use with the ubiquitous AR-15’s in America, and tap into the increasing hatred in our polarized culture war.

Atwood occasionally tries to do too much in connecting it with people or events of the 1980’s, but her writing from the handmaid’s perspective is excellent, and adds to the reader’s feeling of fear and frustration. Her reactions feel honest, and so much is simply unknown. (***spoiler alert***) How very real this feels, in situations like this, to simply not know, and to be haunted by that just as much as by the loss of what once was. The more I think about the ambiguous ending, which has the Handmaid’s story abruptly ending and a final chapter at a Symposium hundreds of years later, the more I like it. Just as Offred never will know what happened to her husband and daughter, we cannot know what happened to her, lost to time. It also puts the horrifying events in a historical context, with the previously all-powerful being somewhat clinically examined by scholars from following centuries, subtly telling us that even the most brutal or totalitarian regimes must fall, and often after in-fighting and purges. I suppose in that there is a glimmer of hope, in what is an otherwise dark novel.

Just this quote, on objectifying women in paintings:
“I remember walking in art galleries, through the nineteenth century: the obsession they had then with harems. Dozens of paintings of harems, fat women lolling on divans, turbans on their heads or velvet caps, being fanned with peacock tails, a eunuch in the background standing guard. Studies of sedentary flesh, painted by men who’d never been there. These pictures were supposed to be erotic, and I thought they were, at the time; but I see now what they were really about. They were paintings about suspended animation; about waiting, about objects not in use. They were paintings about boredom.
But maybe boredom is erotic, when women do it, for men.” ( )
2 vote gbill | Oct 11, 2016 |
This book was a lot scarier than I thought it would be, I have no idea what I would do if this were to ever happen in real life. It is a little difficult to believe that anything like what happens in this book COULD happen but you never know! The main thing I did not like about this book was that it left so many many questions unanswered. I hate that we never know what happened to Luke or her daughter. Was her daughter given to some other Commander and his wife or was she taken somewhere else different entirely? I hate that they don't say exactly who it was that ended up taking over America. What I hate the most is how incomplete the ending is, we have no idea what actually happens to Offred. It is such an unfinished story! I've seen that Hulu is starting a series next year based on this novel, hopefully it will be better! ( )
  KeriLynneD | Sep 20, 2016 |
This is one of those classics that I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't read. Blasphemous, I know. Twenty seven years on this earth and I'm JUST NOW getting to this sensationally, classic, and groundbreaking work?!?! I feel like my librarian card would have been revoked had I not gotten to it when I did. I read this book from start to finish in less than 24 hours, so it was good to know that all the hype was true. This book is hard to put down. I was riveted from the get go. This dystopian novel of gender inequality and sex and politics, remains as relevant today as when it was first published three decades ago. I won't do justice summarizing the book. Trust me, just dive right in. You won't regret it. It's timeless and will stay with you long after you finish reading it. ( )
1 vote ecataldi | Sep 14, 2016 |
Haunting, heartbreaking, scarily real.

Having read a lot of dystopian, a lot of scifi... a lot of the plots and facts while possible, require some fantasy based or significant advances in technology for them to occur. Should we give, say the HG to a reader in 5, 10 years, maybe the review of that book would be similar to the following.

This book is on point. Not one thing in this could not realistically happen right now. Having written this book so many years ago and for certain things to be said, its eerie how accurate the author was in her information, her story.

Rarely, do we even know the main characters given name. We know her as a "title" until she is passed on. She hints at a huge loss, and throughout the book, we are given chances to learn more about that loss.... and the pain she feels and her adaptation from it.

The ending of this book is unexpected. Left me wanting more for so many reasons, but accepting that maybe that the way it ended was inevitable. ( )
1 vote Krista_Rainwater | Sep 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 591 (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 (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balbusso, AnnaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balbusso, ElenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Battey, FrancesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danes, ClaireNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennati, CamilloTranslatorsecondary 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 withhold 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 (4)

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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