9 August 2011

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

This is the story of Offred, a handmaid in a post-war dystopian society where men rule and women are categorised and dressed to show their rank. The population is so low that Handmaids have to be assigned to the Commanders and are expected to have their children. Three miscarriages or deformed babies, and they get carted to the colonies; a place for useless men and women. If you were lucky, you would be picking cotton or fruit, but if you weren't, you were sent to die by cleaning up toxic waste. Some only had months to live.

The story is in the form of a diary, we are not sure to whom it is written, or even if the main character lives or dies at the end. Her only importance is to be a vessel, a surrogate mother for the Commander's child. We are shown how her life is ruled by fear; she is ripped from her old life. Her job, her family, even her name is taken from her, to be replaced by the name of the Commander she serves.

This book looks at our society and rips it to pieces. it shows us how we live for pleasure by condemning the characters to a life without it, for which the punishment is most likely death for those who seek it. The protagonist mourns the loss of things we currently take for granted, like wearing what we like, free speech, friendship, love, even having a job. It makes the reader realise how truly lucky they are to have these simple luxuries.

This is a complex and enticing story about a woman trapped in such a society and wishing to get out. It is a social comment on how people treat each other, of morality and the way we take things for granted. It takes into account the ideas of right and wrong and allows the reader to decide if the society is indeed cruel or if it is necessary.

Margaret Atwood delivers a heartbreaking and sophisticated read, it deserves a 10 out of 10.