Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale is set in a dystopian future in which the ruling class uses pseudo-Christian rhetoric to subjugate women. Sex plays a large role in the novel. Handmaids are used to help counteract a population decline. (The government had declared that no men could be infertile, only women.) The man and his handmaid participate in a "ceremony" (with his wife present) in an attempt to impregnate her. They seem to have predicted that we do the same thing today - only the "ceremony" involves a few layers of scientists and a mixing in test tubes. The novel is told entirely from a female viewpoint, and presents a very dark picture of a society where women are not allowed to read (or even casually speak) and must subtlety show bits of individuality on their own.
At the end, we find the "tale" was found recorded on cassette tapes in Maine. A study of it is being presented as part of a scholarly presentation of the "Gilead Studies" convention. They are unsure of the identification of the narrator or the commander. However, they have some guesses. This ending drastically changed the understanding of the book. The reliability of narrator is called into question, though it is still considered to be fairly authentic. It does open the possibilities of all sorts of other works set in this "historical" period. We also have no idea what happened to the narrator. Was she caught? Did she escape shortly thereafter? We don't know. Though the framing story does seem to give an "excuse" for the graphic nature of the earlier work. After all, it was just unedited thoughts without literary filtration.

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