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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (original 1985; edition 1998)

by Margaret Atwood

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22,45252056 (4.12)1378
Title:The Handmaid's Tale
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Anchor (1998), Edition: 1st Anchor Books, Paperback, 311 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

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Showing 1-5 of 499 (next | show all)
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!!!!! ( )
1 vote blackdogbooks | May 9, 2015 |
Maybe I've read too much dystopia in my time, but this didn't really click with me. The narrator is a handmaid - basically a woman brought into the home in order to make babies with the man of the house, forever resented by the man's wife and the other servants. Her life is equal parts dangerous and boring; regular people have to be very careful what they say or do or else face severe repercussions, while those in power enjoy freedom from whichever rules they don't like. I've read it before many times in other stories, many of them more compelling than this. I appreciated the epilogue, rather than leaving the reader hanging, but it did little to bring me back in. Honestly, I think you'd probably enjoy this more if you were not already a fan of dystopia stories. ( )
  melydia | May 9, 2015 |
A story of a handmaid named Offred who is only seen as an time to give birth to children. She remembers a simpler time where she would live freely with her husband, but all of that has changed. This book portrays women as nothing but items for reproducing. I did not favor this book. Although it did have some interesting story plot, i find it sends the wrong message. If i ever was to use this book, I would have to do some rereading and heavy analysis before hand. The book did capture my attention, but it was not quite the book for me. ( )
  amartino1208 | May 1, 2015 |
Such a horrible sad story. I feel the ending....the (star date) 2195 conference chapter was sort of dumbing down to us. The future seemed like an advance sort of ISIS culture. Written in 1998 the shades of life on the strick Islamic states ( as I envision in regards of all the propaganda). A terrible fate for anyone who falls outside the lines of what is fdmanded of a woman/female. Haunting and beautifully written...a warning of what just may be our fate. ( )
  Alphawoman | Apr 13, 2015 |
I just couldn't like this book, I tried and better tried to see the metaphor and simile in it but it was just, for me, a boring drudge through tedium.
Sorry feminists across the world, I know this book is hailed as a great work of literature but I just couldn't see it. The narrative was boring, the characters unsympathetic and one-dimensional, the actual plot just didn't work for me either and there is actually a really serious flaw in the HOW of the writing. There is no distinction between characters and narrator.
The story is disjointed, things are done for the shock value rather than the narrative value and, overall, it's a real disappointment on all levels. ( )
  Cadiva | Apr 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 499 (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 (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Atwoodprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Battey, FrancesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary 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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:40 -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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