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The Handmaid's Tale Paperback – March 16, 1998
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From Library Journal
In a startling departure from her previous novels ( Lady Oracle , Surfacing ), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries. BOMC featured alternate. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections between politics and sex . . . Just as the world of Orwell's 1984 gripped our imaginations, so will the world of Atwood's handmaid!" —The Washington Post Book World
"The Handmaid's Tale deserves the highest praise." —San Francisco Chronicle
"Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling conclusions . . . An excellent novel about the directions our lives are taking . . . Read it while it's still allowed." —Houston Chronicle
Top Customer Reviews
The somewhat circular narrative centres around and is being told from the perspective of Offred, a woman living in Republic of Gilead, the dystopian, future theocracy established on the teritory of today's United States of America. Gilead's government is organized by a group of very specific religious fanatics, basing their theology on a couple of chapters from the Old Testament, specifically the story about Sarah, Abraham's wife, who could not bear children, and therefore had given Abraham her handmaid, Hagar, to concieve children with her. Also written in that chapter is God's command to Hagar to completely submit to her mistress, and Abraham's observation that Sarah is to do whatever she pleases with her handmaid.
That is the point from which the treatment of handmaids is derived in the Republic of Gilead. As the increasingly polluted land caused infertility withing majority of women, the fertile ones, especially those who have been either married to divorced men (theocracy of Gilead does not recognize divorce), or single, but not virgins, are taken as "handmaids" to be awarded to high ranking families without children.Read more ›
Offred (her name was derived from "of" and the name of her own Commander, "Fred") is forced to live her life in a new dictatorship called the Republic of Gilead. Offred is allowed to leave her Commander's home only once each day; her freedom, like that of other ordinary civilians, has been stripped from her and she exists at the mercy of the heads of state who are known as the Commanders.
The Republic of Gilead, however, is a society in the midst of crisis. Its land and atmosphere have been polluted by nuclear waste and all but a handful of the population has been rendered barren. Those infertile women, women who will never, or never again, reproduce, are known as "Unwomen," and are sent to the Colonies where they must toil as laborers with no privileges, working to clean up the nuclear waste. The only exceptions are the infertile Wives of the Commanders. Women lucky enough to still retain their fertility, like Offred, are considered a treasured "object" of society and one whose role is to bear children for the Wives of the Commanders who cannot.Read more ›
THE HANDMAID'S TALE is a frightening look at a not too distant future where sterility is the norm, and fertile woman are treated as cattle, to produce children for the upper class who cannot have any. The narrator Offred, as she is called in her new life, is the Handmaid for a top Commander in the new government. Once a month she is tested by a gynecologist to ensure that she is healthy, and then is taken to the Commander and his wife in the hopes of becoming pregnant.
Offred, along with the other handmaid's, are not allowed to look directly at anyone else. They all wear the same outfits; red long dresses and headgear that cover their bodies. They live together, spend most of their time together, and are taken care of, in the hopes that they will produce children for this barren society. In this society, most women are not allowed to read, and are treated as if they have no minds. The government dictates their role in society. If they disobey, they are punished severely.
Offred's memories often go back to a time when she was happily married to Luke, and with their daughter they were looking forward to a long and happy life together. Things changed when a military group took over the government, and immediately their lives as they knew it were over. Women lost all rights to ownership; bank accounts were frozen, land was taken away; fertile women were taken away from their husbands and families. A handful of older women were made into `Aunts', and their duties were to instruct and guide the handmaids, reminding them of their role on this earth, which is to procreate.
I have to say that my feelings during this book were of shock.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this book. My daughter had read it and persisted that I also needed to. Ultimately she gave it to me as a xmas gift! Read morePublished 1 hour ago by Sherry R
I was certain I'd read this as an undergrad, but I had not. This is one of the most harrowing books I've read, and one of the best.Published 2 hours ago by Leah Welborn
I felt like this was a book I was supposed to read. Perhaps it was.
It was choppy and difficult to discern at times. Read more
Good book..kept me interested the whole time. Ending seemed strange at first until I saw that after it was a Historical Notes section that actually completed the tale. Read morePublished 21 hours ago by Diane Finlay