Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: A Not-so-improbable Dystopian World

Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale featuring an illustration of two women in red robes and white head coverings walking inside a walled space
Book cover of The Handmaid’s Tale

By Madison Teuscher

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian-style cautionary tale set in a radically theocratic America. The Christian fundamentalist regime, called “Gilead,” has divided women based on fertility and obedience. Handmaids are fertile women who serve as surrogate wombs for the Commanders and their aging wives. All women are completely stripped of their rights—everything from reading to purchasing power—and are sorted into classes to divide and control them. The Wives—women married to the powerful Commanders—are relegated to spending their days knitting, gardening, and waiting for their Handmaid to give birth to a child. Handmaids are completely powerless, and everywhere they go, there are Eyes—the military division of the Gilead regime—watching and waiting to kill them for any misbehavior.

One reviewer on The Verge called the story, “1984 for feminists… but a lot scarier.” This theocratic society has based its revolution on a Bible passage in the book of Genesis about Jacob’s wife, Rachel, allowing her handmaid to conceive Jacob’s child on her behalf. This passage is recited during the monthly ceremony in which the Commander attempts to impregnate the Handmaid, all under the Wife’s watchful eye. If a Handmaid cannot reproduce, she is sent to labor internment camps with the Unwomen—old and infertile women who are no longer valuable to the society. Handmaids are containers for babies, and nothing more.

Continue reading “Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: A Not-so-improbable Dystopian World”

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Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”: A not-so-improbable dystopian world

“You Read Like A Girl” Book Review Series

By Madison Teuscher

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian-style tale set in a radically theocratic America. The regime, called Gilead, has classified women into based on fertility and obedience, with different ranks identified by their unique uniform. All women are completely stripped of their rights—everything from reading to purchasing power—and are sorted into classes to divide and control them. Handmaids are fertile women who serve as surrogate wombs for the Commanders and their aging wives. The Wives—women married to the powerful Commanders—are reduced to days of knitting, gardening, and waiting for their Handmaid to give birth to their children. Handmaids are completely powerless, and everywhere they go, there are Eyes—the military division of the Gilead regime—watching and waiting to kill them for any misbehavior.The cover of Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale"

One reviewer writing for The Verge called it “1984 for feminists… but a lot scarier”. This theocratic society has based its societal revolution on a passage in the book of Genesis about Jacob’s wife, Rachel, allowing her handmaid to conceive Jacob’s child on her behalf. This passage is recited in the book during the monthly ceremony in which the Commander attempts to impregnate the Handmaid under the Wife’s watchful eye. If a Handmaid cannot reproduce, she is sent to a labor internment camp with other Unwomen—old and infertile women who are no longer valuable to the society. Handmaids are only containers for babies, and nothing more. Continue reading “Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”: A not-so-improbable dystopian world”