One of the books that I recently read is Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I’ve been a fan of Atwood’s poetry since high school, but I never got around to reading her novels until much later. Let me make another recommendation to my high school literature teachers: Please include “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the feminist literature reading list. (Ah, but do they still teach feminist lit in St. Scho? I sure hope so.)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a work of speculative fiction, set sometime in the near future. Atwood has created a dystopia, the Republic of Gilead, governed by a militarized totalitarian regime that has used religious fundamentalism/fanaticism to carve out social classes in the republic.
The story is told from the point of view of Offred (not her real name, but she is “Of Fred”), a handmaid who belongs to her Commander. She is part of a group of women kept as concubines, solely for reproductive purposes, by the ruling class. At each particular time of the month, Offred must have sex with her Commander, while his wife, Serena Joy, holds her hands. The narrative is disjointed, with Offred recalling her life pre-Gilead, her experiences in the Rachel and Leah Re-education Center (where the women were indoctrinated into Gilead’s ideologies), and her life as a handmaid.