The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

Review by Sam Sorensøn

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood offers a peek into a not-too-distant future of the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, wherein the constitution has been dissolved, and those in power have effectively eradicated women’s rights. In fact, women aren’t allowed to read anymore. Relics from the past, such as fashion magazines, are considered contraband. Our protagonist, Offred (her name designating Fred’s ownership) describes her experience as a handmaid on her third assignment, including the revolution, failed attempts to escape, and the newly imposed totalitarian social structure that redefines what it is to be a woman. Through this narrative, Offred guides her audience through a terrifying illustration of gender inequality and problematic power dynamics. The end provides a twist that I cannot reveal, but creates an interesting lack of closure.

This novel appealed to me as a student of literature that is concerned with its role in social justice. The characters are developed and echo some discourses presently circulating. It also shows the importance of language and how it can be manipulated in positions of power. While being somewhat “heavy” in this regard, it also serves as a wonderfully riveting page-turner for those that like dystopian literature; I read this one on the beach!

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Sam S. has worked as a Circulation Assistant for the Tredyffrin Public Library since 2013. She loves writing, reading, teaching, playing with her cat, and finding the perfect cup of coffee.