The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, Part I

38447It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale, and I had forgotten what a fascinating and disturbing read it was. I’ve been reading it for only three days now, and I am already past the halfway point.

What’s really striking me about this book on this read through is the idea of complicity, especially as it pertains to political systems. Systems like the one that exists in The Handmaid’s Tale (Wikipedia article) couldn’t exist, I don’t think, if so many of the participants didn’t just go along with things. They way Atwood described this system, it sounds to me like a huge reaction against the politics and culture of “the time before”–the narrator’s words for the way life was before whatever catastrophe it was that spawned the Republic of Gilead.

Frankly, I find it all horrifying, the way that this society has swung so far in the opposite direction of “the time before.” And probably the really scary thing is that I can see this sort of thing happening in our own American society and politcal system. Think about it, almost every time the Democrats and the Left get ahead, they are followed by a Conservative and Right period. Kennedy and Johnson, then Nixon to Bush the First, then Clinton, and now Bush the Younger. And every time, it seems like the reactionary swing goes further Right or Left.

End of rant. Sorry.

Another thing that’s really striking me about this book on this read through is how Atwood has personified the struggle over a woman’s right to choose and control over her on body in the Handmaids. As a reaction to years of abortions and declining birth rates, reproduction and sexuality have become frighteningly regulated. The Handmaids, as the narrator frequently describes them, are “walking wombs” and so on.

The reason I am re-reading this book is because I am planning on leading a discussion about it at the end of September for Banned Books Week at my local public library. As you can no doubt see, I am going to have a lot to talk about.