The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood is touted as a call to arms for feminists everywhere. Strangely enough, I didn’t find it to be that at all. The story struck me more as the story of a survivor and a cautionary tale against too much change too quickly. There are elements of feminist leanings, warnings of dire consequences if women let their guard down but that is really too narrow of an interpretation; it only hits the surface of the story. This story is a call to arms against tyranny of any sort. It is unfortunate that it has received a feminist label, as the lesson is more encompassing than that.
The tale of Offred is a tale of despair, of freedom lost to backlash against too much change too quickly. It is the tale of the women of Afghanistan, a story of minority and fragile political status; a lesson in fear and what happens when righteous indignation of a disenfranchised power structure is invoked. The sad part is that the United States is going through the same transformation - the religious are ruling the country and revoking freedom in small, insidious ways. And the populace is responding the same way that they did in the book. We are mostly indifferent unless the change affects us directly.
The next book I picked up had an apt passage - describing my interpretation of Offred’s situation.
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how may skies have fallen.
- Lady Chatterly’s Lover - DH Lawrence