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The Classics Companion

I have a (small) obsession with books and tv shows. Proud geek.

The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics)

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale was first recommended to me by my English Literature teacher a few years ago. I was wanting to expand my reading, and I honestly hadn't got a clue where to start. And she pointed me towards this. It's a feminist dystopia, it presents the stark, tyrannical society, one based on religious extremism and political control. And one that objectifies women as reproductive systems, and frankly nothing more. This is Gilead. It's harsh, and it showed me truly how amazing literature can be.

We meed Offred, a 'handmaid', who are brought into the households of upper class families to essentially give birth to their children when the Wives can't conceive. They're their ovaries. They aren't allowed to read, all individualism and self expression is banned. The book works through Offred's experiences, and the slow development of her rebellious, doubting force about the regime that has changed her life. She remembers her husband and daughter, before Gilead developed out of the United States of America.

It's a hard read. Multiple people have told me it terrified them. But not through blatant gothic/dangerous nature. Instead, Margaret Atwood uses subtle hints, presents the society that's not too far from our own. When she wrote it, she said Gilead was based off 'things that had happened and things that are happening'. It was written in 1985, and Atwood described it as the possible 'backlash from Second-Wave Feminism'. It was what could happen if radical feminism went too far, if society rebelled against their fight for women's rights that was emerging in the 1980s. It was possible, it could have happened. And that makes it so, so powerful.