My friend Sarah came up with a Twitter bookclub and their choice for May was to read The Handmaid’s Tale. As I will be in tech rehearsal when they’ll discuss this on Twitter on Sunday June 4th, I thought I’d write a blog post about my thoughts and feelings towards this story. Actually kill three birds with one stone because I also get to dust off this blog once again, plus, the book really made me think.
Actually, reading this story made me mad because I didn’t take AP English in high school and thus didn’t have to read it for class. We read other books, not a lot of them as fascinating as this one. Plus, it was by a female author. I’d have loved to actually study this book because it’s so full of everything though I’m not sure I would have gotten out of it the things at age 17 or 18 that I get out of them now, 10 years later.
It took me a while to understand that the name Offred isn’s some weird new-agey name but actually a property name. Of Fred. The story is set in the future and some weird shit happened in the US, they had the government overthrown by religious fanatics and now women only exist as property of men. Again. Some are more lucky than others. This is the story of the Handmaid Offred who’s sole job it is to procreate with higher up men who are too old or too damaged to actually father children but it’s never the man’s fault, it always is the women’s fault. Because of course it is.
This story gave me chills on more occasions than I can even remember. It’s well written and it doesn’t seem that far fetched, actually. It’s full of social commentary and the eeriness of women’s issues. I don’t have to use a lot of imagination for this story.
I had a lot of smart things to say, or so I felt, after finishing the book but somehow they seem to elude me at this point. I know I wanted to shout “Fuck the Patriarchy” at the book when the Commander takes Offred to a club because these rich, straight, white men get the best of the old and the new world. They can work their way around the new social order, do whatever the hell they want and the women suffer. All of them. Even the rich wives. It makes me so, so angry.
Offred is not a reliable narrator, we learn so at the very end when this tale is discussed in a time after this weird society has already fallen. I actually don’t know how I felt about that part of the story, I may have preferred it if the author had ended the story at the end of Offred’s tale.
Considering this book was published in the 1980s, I was pleasantly surprised by how homosexuality was incorporated into the narrative. Offred’s best friend from before, Moira, comes out as a lesbian throughout the story. It didn’t feel heavy handed, just normal which, again, surprises me given the age of the novel. This book is full of feminism and if you know me, you know it’s right up my alley. I really enjoyed it, as much as one can enjoy such a tale.