Canadian author, Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, one of her most known works, tells the story of the futuristic Republic of Gilead, formerly known as the United States of America, where women no longer have full and equal rights to men and only have the purpose to reproduce as it was said in the old testament, which is highly looked upon in the new country. Women who cannot bear children are sent to the colonies, which is said to be a toxic waste land. The narrator of the story is a woman by who in the new world is known as Offred, who is a handmaid for a Commander, named Fred, and his wife, Serena Joy. We never truly know her given name from the old world, but do see glimpse of what life was like before the Republic of Gilead had risen as the woman had been a young adult during the time. With the story being written in 1985 and set in 2012, we get to experience a futuristic dystopian involving our time.
After much pollution and nuclear disaster, which had rendered many women and men infertile, the architects of Gilead began to rise to power by using the military to assassinate the president and members of Congress to suddenly, violently and illegally seize power from the United States government. The narrator of the story soon loses her job and access to money as the architects of Gilead remove many of women’s rights, forbidding women to hold any sort of property or jobs. Because of the oppression they’re feeling, Offred and her husband Luke take their daughter and attempted to flee across the border into Canada, now known as a country of freedom for those in the Republic of Gilead, but are caught and separated, which results in Offred never seeing her husband or daughter again. Once caught, Offred is heavily drugged and brought to the Center, where they test her ovaries for fertility.
With the sterility in many women, those who can still bear children are required to serve as a surrogate mother for women of higher status whom cannot reproduce. If she refuses her only other option is to be deemed unwomen and sent to the colonies or death, but if she successfully bears a healthy child, she is safe from being named unwomen. Each handmaid is awarded two years and three households, which results in six years, to become impregnated. After many tries to become pregnant by her commander, Offred has an affair with a member of the household staff, which was arranged by the commander’s wife whom is desperate to have a child of her own. Once the affair begins, it continues illicitly, where she becomes pregnant by him, and leads her to then escape the Republic of Gilead as the fight continues.
The epilogue of the novel is told years after, once the Republic of Gilead is no longer in power. Once the narrator’s story has concluded, there is one more chapter, named “Historical Notes”, where we hear of tapes, recorded by Offred, being found an analysed by a professor. The professor, who has done research on the tapes, tries to figure out exactly what has happened to the women whose identity is still unknown. He isn't sure exactly how the story of this women ends, and if she made it to safety or not, but he does guess that she did make it to safety, even if it was just long enough to record the tapes before being recaptured by forces from the Republic of Gilead.
I absolutely adored this novel! I had honestly never heard of this novel nor of the author before having to read it for my English literature class. At first it took a lot to actually sit down and read, since it was a long enough book with a story line I thought I wouldn't like. As it turns out I was wrong. The way Atwood writes about the future, which is now our present, is amazing. Towards the end of the novel I could actually imagine this world, being the year 2012, becoming reality. One of the things this novel did was inspire me to research more on women's rights during that time period and how it has changed today. After all that research, I was able to believe that the future Atwood wrote about could have possibly come true. Over all, once I finished the novel, I found the story to be one that was filled with suspense as well as a touch of mystery, which made reading it exciting. I look forward to reading more of Atwood's work as well as this novel again in the future.