Hi! Would you please share some of your thoughts about The Handmaid's Tale? I've been trying to read it for weeks now, yet I still find it hard go through each chapter. I really want to like it though. Thank you!
Hiya, sorry it has taken me a long time to answer this!
I don’t know where to start really because I’ve loved Atwood for so long. The Handmaid’s Tale is such a brilliant novel. I actually chose to write on it at A-Level and now I am glad to see that it is officially on the syllabus (nothing to do with me, obviously, just a nice coincidence).
It has been quite a long time since I read it but from what I remember, here are some themes / ideas to consider:
- What is a ‘dystopian novel’ and why do they have such an enduring appeal? Is writing about the future a lot like writing about the past?
[this article puts it fairly simplistically]
- Is the narrator reliable? Can we trust everything that is recounted in the novel to be ‘true’? If not, how does Atwood deliberately create that sense through her writing?
- What is ‘free will’ and does it really exist, or is it a construct? Even Commanders – who are above Handmaids in the societal hierarchy – seem to live limited lives. How does society take women’s freedom from them? If Offred could be ‘free’, what would that really mean? Was she free before being a Handmaid?
- Generally, women have less freedom because they are perceived as a lower social status due to their sex and fertility. How is this a reflection of our society as it currently operates? If you’re not familiar with the ideas put forward by feminist movements, it might be worth reading some feminist theorists such as Lorde, Rowbotham, Adichie, or Wollstonecraft.
Maybe my followers can contribute some other things to discuss! Hope this helps a bit – I’m sorry you’re finding it a tough read. Sometimes it’s just not the right time in your life to enjoy or understand a text. If you really don’t like it, don’t force it – maybe you should try some other dystopia first, or some of her other work. Oryx and Crake is also a good novel (one of my favourites). Having said that some literature is deliberately difficult, but if you persevere it can be very rewarding.
p.s. I have not watched The Handmaid’s Tale yet but I heard that she approves, produces and has a cameo so I might actually watch it (I’m open to reviews)