Disturbing. That is the overwhelming feeling I was left with after reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (O.W. Toad, 1986).
I didn’t know much about the book before reading it. I’ve never watched the television series, which begins its fourth season in April.
It was during the U.S. Supreme Court hearings last fall for then nominee Amy Coney Barrett that the word “handmaid” caught my attention. When I saw the book on a friend’s shelf I grabbed it knowing it would give me insight into what all the hubbub was about.
Having read it after Jan. 6 made it even more disturbing, especially considering it was published 35 years ago. The book takes place after the U.S. government is overthrown and a totalitarian regime is put in place. The new country is the Republic of Gilead.
The handmaids’ purpose is to bear the children of men they are not married to. Of course, it’s never the man’s fault if the woman does not get pregnant. Simply, it’s sex slavery.
The hierarchy in this new United States is completely about men and their dominance over women. While wives are above handmaids, their lives are also not their own to be lived.
The book was on the 2019 American Library Association’s list of most “challenged” books by parents and other community members because of its “vulgarity and sexual overtones.” To me, any book that is threatened to be censored is one that should be bought by the caseload.
While this is a work of fiction, one has to wonder how far-fetched the theme really is based on how the patriarchy of the United States is running scared.