What I’m Reading: the Handmaid’s Tale

It took me a few months to finish the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and for good reason: that shit was intense. And I’m only now realizing that I’m posting this on Valentine’s Day. Sorry, not sorry.

I’m not even sure that I can put into words how this book made me feel, even now. If you’re not sure what the Handmaid’s Tale is about, here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….

I think what is so terrifying about the Handmaid’s Tale is that it doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. Not when there are lawmakers in Oklahoma calling women literal hosts when they become pregnant. Not when our current administration wants to use the Bible to influence our laws rather than the Constitution. Not when I am, even now, protesting for my right to an abortion, right next to women who have been fighting for their right to choose since before 1973. It’s 2017, and yet the threats of the Handmaid’s Tale are just as real as ever. 

And before you call me crazy, consider this text that influences the theocracy in the book:

And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.

Yup, directly from the bible, Genesis 30:1-3. When I say they take this quote literally, I literally mean literally. The handmaids lay on the wives as they try to get pregnant by the wives’ husbands. It’s fucking horrific.

I will say that the ending was intriguing to me, though I still have my reservations about it (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you). In all, the Handmaid’s Tale is just good literature, and something that all women should read at some point in their life. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you are anti-abortion or pro-choice or feminist as fuck, as women, we always have had, and always will have, to fight for our right to bodily autonomy. 

There’s not much to say about this book that hasn’t been said before, but I will share a quote that has really stuck with me. Because it is as relevant today than ever.

Leave a Reply