Margaret Atwood has truly created a dystopian – feminist nightmare. The Republic of Gilead, where women no longer have any rights, except for one: to breed. Offred is a Handmaid and protagonist of the story. She lives in a house with the Commander and his wife where once in a month she must lie on her back and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant. Offred and other Handmaids, in an age where childbirth has declined, are valued only if they can give birth. If they deviate, they will be hanged at the wall or sent for a slow death caused by radiation sickness.
Controlled by Men
In Atwood’s dystopia, women have no power, no free will and access to knowledge. The women are owned by the state and fully controlled by men. They are not allowed to enjoy the pleasures life has to offer. They are simply reproductive machines that need to be discarded when no longer able to give births. Handmaids are allowed to walk once a day to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. They walk with assigned Guardian, as of course, they are not permitted to walk by themselves.
Offred refuses to accept this life, nothing in this life is hers. This is a regime she has been forced upon. She often reminisces her past where she had a job, a loving husband Luke, a daughter, money on her own and access to knowledge, but it is too painful. She is not allowed to remember her past. Even her name – Offred – was assigned to her so that there is no link to her memories and to her past.
This is a brilliant novel, thought-provoking and very disturbing. Atwood wrote it in a language that is powerful and subtle at the same time. A horrifying story that readers will not forget.