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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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25,63765944 (4.11)1622
Title:The Handmaid's Tale
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Anchor (1998), Edition: 1st Anchor Books, Paperback, 311 pages
Collections:Your library

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 1622 mentions

English (636)  Spanish (6)  French (3)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (657)
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Part of the thrill and attraction of dystopian future reads is that they are horrifying in the transformed familiar elements to our current lives, yet seem so unlikely. We shudder at the images of broken physical landmarks and cultural ideals, but don't really believe that these bastardizations of things we hold dear could really happen. Not now, not here.

I have long been aware of The Handmaid's Tale and the place it holds in modern literature, but had yet to read it. It is no surprise that the current political climate brings this and other English class staples like 1984, Animal Farm and Brave New World, which we read in school and probably rolled our eyes at, back in the spotlight. It is times like these that make us realize WHY we read them in class, as we watch things we thought we were long past coming back to the fore, by our government leaders no less. It is frightening.

I dreaded reading this, to be honest. I did not enjoy it, though it is well done. It is a difficult story, and one which you find yourself, at least as a woman, wondering what position you might have held in the Gilead Society, and question what would you have done to stay alive? Things you think you never would? Could you have held firm to your ideals, knowing it likely meant death? Or would you have gone along, just to survive? The story is the narrative by the main character of her current life, interspersed with memories of before and the time leading up to where she is. Especially chilling to me was the epilogue, after Offred's narrative concludes, where the story is being considered by historical academics many years later, at times laughingly, and painted in a very clinical light, where the society is looked at as a whole, and methodologies are discussed about how and why the society came to function the way it did. At that point it is a little too easy to imagine our current situation being painted in such a sterile and unemotional light, broken down into a set of calculated actions and reactions. How a few elites were responsible for the new ideologies that arose by playing to fears and prejudices.

Like the others before it, it is a cautionary tale, I hope it always remains so. ( )
  shaunesay | Jun 21, 2017 |
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of Offred, a handmaid living in Gilead. The nation of Gilead formed after conservative Christian fundamentalists used a national tragedy to seize control of the government and economics, imposing their vision of a Christian utopia in which women exist solely to serve men. Gilead uses Biblical justifications for their laws, denying women the right to own property, give evidence in court, and requires two witnesses in order to prove a crime occurred. Atwood's description of sexual politics in this fictional society closely mirrors that desired by modern fundamentalists. Indeed, in her introduction to the Folio Society edition, Atwood describes her self-imposed limitations, writing, "I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist" (pg. xii). The illustrations by Anna and Elena Balbusso rely on minimalism, reflecting the views of a society that reduces women to mere objects who exist solely for reproduction. Further, they portray scenes from the story without casting the characters in such a way that the reader cannot imagine the faces for themselves. One cannot help but read this book as a warning about the goals of the fundamentalists that have influenced U.S. politics since the 1970s. While it would be naïve to view this book as a warning of a definite future, it does capture a current thread in political discourse and offer one possible course it could take as it cautions readers about the dangers of Christian fundamentalism. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Jun 18, 2017 |
This story stirred up so many thoughts and feelings that I was upset when it was finished. Not only could our future look like the one portrayed in this book, but it feels like it could happen at any moment. Most of the characters did not see their world as they knew it crashing down around them until it was too late. I felt every moment of desperation, every moment of loneliness, every brief moment of hope and happiness that the protagonist felt. And the fact that the author did not give her a name meant that she could be any one of us. I would 150% recommend this book to everyone old enough to handle it (due to mature situations and language). I inhaled this book in a single breath it seemed like and will probably read it several more times in the future. ( )
  jessicarabbit86 | Jun 17, 2017 |
A frightening look at things that have happened, and could happen, in a different setting. It's interesting how the flashbacks were sprinkled in, and it slowly shows how these things came to be, a little at a time. ( )
  Pepperwings | Jun 17, 2017 |
Sad, bleak, and powerful. This story hits you on so many different levels. The empathy you feel for the MC is reveled bit by bit making this a real page turner. ( )
  caanderson | Jun 11, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (17 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.
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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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