Friday, 16 October 2015

The Handmaid's Tale

   Dystopian novels are not particularly interesting to me.  One exception is "The Giver".  I loved that book and felt that it had a great message:  a world with no choice means that people never make a bad choice.  Would that be a better world?  Great question to discuss with teenagers.
Margaret Atwood
   Now I can add another favourite dystopian novel.  "The Handmaid's Tale".
I had previously read five novels written by Margaret Atwood.  I really enjoyed "Alias Grace" and "The Blind Assassin".  They were not dystopian.  Actually, Margaret Atwood prefers the term "speculative fiction".
  Atwood sees this difference between science fiction and speculative fiction: "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships: speculative fiction could really happen".
  Dystopian novels are presently categorized as 'science fiction', but really should have a separate category.
The protagonist is Offred.  All names for the 'handmaids' were patronymic, composed of the possessive pronoun (of) and the first name of the 'man of the house'.  If this Offred was not successful in providing a healthy child, there would be another Offred, until there was a child to be raised by the Commander and his wife.

In the novel, the U.S. is being run by an  totalitarian fundamentalist Christian military dictatorship.  Many things are banned, including magazines.

This quote is explaining women's magazines:
"What was in them was promise.  They dealt in transformations; they suggested an endless series of possibilities, extending like the reflections in two mirrors set facing one another. stretching on, replica after replica, to the vanishing point.  They suggested one adventure after another, one wardrobe after another, one improvement after another, one man after another.  They suggested rejuvenation, pain overcome and transcended, endless love.  The real promise in them was immortality".

This writing is amazing!  I am surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did, because it is far from linear.  It moves back and forth in time and place, but the language is so fantastic that I had to stop and read some sentences more than once.  

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