Why Did I Read A Handmaid’s Tale?

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

Author: Margaret Atwood

Why did I read this trash? It reminds me of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, boring and not half as deep as people say that it is. Yet another “classic of feminist literature” novel all about a “strong woman” who needs a man to rescue her.

After a nuclear fallout, much of the population is left mutated. Not the cool kind of mutated like in X-Men, no we’re talking about the realistic kind of mutated: sick and infertile. The few fertile women are rounded up as “handmaidens” a nice way of saying “breading stock.” The novel follows our unnamed protagonist (Offred is a placeholder) as she navigates her way around her valuable, yet inferior status.

Offred is something between the wife’s servant and the husband’s mistress, and it’s a hard road to walk. Who can you go to if someone crosses the line? After a few months of not getting pregnant, she starts an affair with the chauffeur, Nick. At first it was to get pregnant, but it morphed into a relationship of lust.

Like in The Bell Jar, the depressed woman just needs sex and she’s all better. Yeah. We learn nothing about Nick’s backstory, he is nothing to Offred but a hunky life support system for a dick. She would have fallen into this relationship with any guy! I can’t tell if the lack of romance is intended as commentary about the bleakness of a shattered world, or if Atwood is just THAT cynical.

I don’t understand why this world wouldn’t use artificial insemination. There’s lip service to the religion, but this kind of falls into this philosophy that “Christianity is a construct of sexist men” that every feminist with no understanding of the ancient world and how empowering Christianity was for women.

That’s a whole other discussion that I’m not getting into, the idea here is that this post-apocalyptic world needs to repopulate right? Test tube babies should not be an issue here!

Credit where it’s due, this dystopia is at least thought-out enough that multiple factors are at play in the rise of this regime. Still, I would think humans facing a near extinction would behave more rationally. But hey, I wish humans in general would behave more rationally. I can’t say I would recommend this book, But I know it’s become a popular high school English text these days. Let me know what you think? Did some English professor make you read this book? Did you actually like it?

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