Book Review: The Handmaids Tail, by Margaret Atwood

Considering that this book was first published in 1985, it certainly seems to show certain prophetic tendancies. People talk of such books like 1984 by George Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury being warning voices from the past about how certain negative aspects of our lives today have been predicted within the pages of these tomes.
The same can be said, in my opinion about The Handmaids tail. A story of a once free woman, who because of calamitous events that happen in her country. The government takes extreme measures, in reaction to a rise in extreme right winged religeous conservatism. Thus women become second class citizens, completely banned from taking part in activities that they were once free to do on a day to day basis. Like choose who they have relationships with, speak their own mind, drink alcohol, smoke and generally have an equal footing to men.
The main character is a “handmaid” A women who is brought into a family to basically have sex, when required with the man of the house and become impregnated. That she has to walk everywhere outside with a very heavy dress on, coloured bright red and covering her whole body, including face. The masters of these houses have wives too, who wear blue, but do not have babies. When the handmaid has the baby, the family take it, and she may move on to another ‘commander’. Also in the story there are aunts, these are older ladies who police the handmaids, carrying cattle prods. They will carry out instant justice where relevant. If the handmaids are seen to be in anyway wrong, or politically incorrect, they are sent to colonies, where they will spend the remainder of their days doing hard labour.
The book is an obsevation of this horrific dystopian future in the north eastern seaboard. It seems to shout so much to me of how in recent years the rise of religeous fundamentalism, not necessarily in the United states, but elsewhere in the world. Particularly in the middle east and Africa, where civil wars and terrorism give way to the rules of shariah law pushed upon once free societies. Particularly in the line of basic femine freedoms that women once had. I thought it was quite prophetic anyway.
As a read, I felt it was very drawn out, the pace was very slow at times, but it was necessary to create the mood of hope taken away from the main character. How she held so many free opinions about things, and now couldn’t say a word. Only words that could be heard correctly by the right people. Very dark and claustrophobic in its atmosphere. I found it a hard read, but once I got to the end, I realised what a strong read it was. Hopefully religious conservatism will not ride over too many of us in the future. But if it does, maybe this is an incite as to what could be, if we let it happen.

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