My latest television series indulgence is also doubling as my new favorite book!
I was late to The Handmaid’s Tale bandwagon because I’m not a bandwagon person. The instant something is super popular I’m normally not interested. I suppose that is the hipster in me.
Anyway, this story is worth all of the praise! The most intriguing thing to me is that the book was published in 1985, written by Margaret Atwood, and the scenarios she includes are eerily relevant today. I feel that the world she created amplifies what is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) happening in our current political climate and country.
The handmaid sharing her story is named Offred (Of Fred, her Commander). In the story’s setting, handmaids are simultaneously revered and looked down upon. In this new totalitarian world, fertility is a challenge. Handmaids are the answer to this problem. And although many times they give the gift of life, it can’t be overlooked that in their life before the country changed, they were adulterers, “whores,” “gender traitors” – women who had “sinned.” Their bodies are no longer theirs, but their Commander’s and their Wife. Frequent “ceremonies” occur where essentially the handmaids are raped in an effort to conceive a baby. It is dark and twisted and will take your breath away if you choose to watch the series.
Atwood’s world is built on religion. Those who revolted against and attacked the United States government have created a new era based on The Bible. Everyone is expected to live and breathe the words in The Bible. Any past transgressions or current day actions that that fall outside of the Holy Word result in severe punishment, and in most cases, death.
Freedom as we know it is non-existent. Women are forbidden from reading or writing or working. They must obey their Commander or other men. Free thinking is beaten down. Uniforms are implemented to help others identify your status. Love is arranged. Money is no longer. “Guardians” are omnipresent, guns in hand, ready to shoot you down. Public hangings on “the wall” are the punishment of choice. The outlook is bleak.
BUT, hope resides. Some people were able to escape to Canada before being captured and forced to live the Gilead way of life. Secret messages are exchanged. Revolution bubbles beneath the surface. Stories of what is truly going on are leaked to countries who could potentially help. People exist within Gilead with enough power that they can attempt to assist people in getting out.
It’s the hope that keeps the characters going. Memories of how life used to be. A yearning to eventually get back to “normal.” Although, most of the men in power have no interest in this because they’ve “got it made” in their opinions. So, it might be a long road.
If there’s one thing this story is teaching me is that we have it good. Really good. Today freedom reigns, but in a blink of an eye it could all be taken away from us. So squeeze your family tight. Appreciate your right to share your opinions, thoughts, feelings. Stand up for what you believe. Don’t allow basic rights to be taken from you. Read. Write. EXPRESS YOURSELF. Don’t take it for granted.