Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... (from back cover)
I have never read Margaret Atwood before (I know, color me ashamed), so I was excited to participate in the Classic Reads read-along hosted this time by Trish from Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'? Our assignment this week was to read Sections I through IV which is about 75 pages. The read-along encompasses a short amount each week and goes through the end of September, so you should definitely join!
I'm finding it really tough to restrain myself and not keep turning the pages and reading more in advance of next week's questions. To be honest, I could really read this in one night -- the writing is very easy to read and the story line is absolutely amazing, not to mention terrifying. Instead of feeling what I expected to feel at first (I'm sure I will later) which was wanting people to immediately fight back against the laws of this society, I actually read the first 75 pages and shivered in fear of all of the new laws and oppression and sadness. And the complacency. The acceptance of the way life just is now.
What is interesting about this dystopian novel is that the rules have only recently changed -- Offred, the Handmaid, can remember what life was like before all of these terrifying laws came into effect and the subsequent loss of freedom and rights. Most dystopian novels take place well after the change in society has happened, or you assume it's just another world somewhere that has always just been like that. But what if it just recently happened? How did a society where women and men had rights and especially, choice, fall apart to rigid restriction and decisions made for you by someone else? How did they let this happen? Was it really past their ability to care anymore because they were just used to it?
Could something like that really happen today? A great point brought up on the read-along by Lisa from Lit and Life are the things that are slowly changing when it comes to air travel since September 11th. I travel a lot for work and so I've felt these changes quite a bit -- it used to be that you could walk someone all the way to their gate to see them off on the plane, but not anymore. Then it changed even more where you couldn't bring anything larger than a 3 ounce bottle of liquid through security. And now, there's a lot of debate about the new security screening machine that can literally see what your body looks like under your clothes! Although I don't mind that we have to say our good-byes at the security screening area, is it possible that we're actually setting ourselves up and building up our tolerances, essentially becoming desensitized to these small changes where one day we're just complacent to one more change after another?
I wonder if The Handmaid's Tale really isn't so far-fetched -- what do you think?
Coffee and a Book Chick