The Handmaids Tale and why everyone should read it  

To categorise The Handmaid’s Tale would be to call it a dystopia, implying that it is a warning for the future, a warning for the way women could possibly be treated and the dangers of totalitarian regimes. Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaids Tale in 1984, but its impact has been long lasting.  

In summary, the novel is written from the first-person perspective of Offred, a handmaid whose duty is to reproduce for the regime in a way that follows biblical surrogacy methods. The regime, arguably, is a theocracy, with its principles centring around distorted and manipulated biblical passages. Women are categorised into wives, Marthas and handmaids, handmaids wear red and have names identifying them to their commander, “of” “Fred”. Mathas do the housework and wives provide a figurehead for the household. The novel plays with time flicking between the future and the past, giving us insight into the rise of the regime, and follows Offred’s life as she is stationed at The Commanders house.

But I believe that everyone should read this novel for several reasons, the first being that most people would act like Offred, she is a passive character, occasionally breaking some of the rules, but arguably this character brings us to a sobering reality that in a situation where society is conforming, the majority conform and few are courageous enough to rebel, whether it is because of fear, indoctrination or surveillance, evidence in history itself shows how society can conform easily. Therefore, by reading the book we are more hesitant to judge those citizens who suffer under totalitarian regimes around the world, standing up and speaking out is not an easy thing to do, nor is anyone a coward for not speaking up.  

Furthermore, The Handmaid’s Tale teaches us the dangers of too much power, Gilead in The Handmaids Tale is a society of patriarchy to the extremes hidden under the pretence that the regime just wants to increase the birth rate. The novel teaches us how fast things can change, in the novel women essentially go from having rights to having none, it is a society oppressing women and then calling it their duty.  

Lastly, it is an important book to read as it shows the real possibility of events like these happening in the real world. In the novel a new army overthrows the US government, the storming of the Capitol in 2021, arguably, reflects that the novel is not as much of a fantasy as one might like to believe.  Atwood even said that she did not include anything in the novel that had not happened in real life emphasising that as humanity we have a duty to protect our rights to freedom and liberty, however it can be taken away from us subtlety and slowly right under our noses.  

The Handmaids Tale is an enlightening read no matter who you are, it will have a different meaning for everyone, but if you ever get the chance to read it, take the chance.