MOJEH Book Club: The Handmaid’s Tale

Words by Annie Darling

2 min read

Earlier this year, in April 2016, Hulu announced that it would unveil a 10-part adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Attwood’s story was originally published in 1985, but her fictional ultra-conservative republic, named Gilead, is uncomfortably relatable today. Fresh parallels between Gilead and Trump’s America have been drawn in the media, with the novel topping Amazon’s bestsellers list after signs at the global Women’s Marches read: “Make Margaret Attwood Fiction Again.”

This revival and re-interest in The Handmaid’s Tale is largely because of its unflinching vision of a speculative future, Attwood’s narrative is purposefully slow and intimate; the story creeps up on the reader, who is abruptly transported between the past and present at various times throughout the novel. Attwood’s protagonist is Offred (not her real name, but the patronymic she has been given by the new regime), a handmaid who in the age of declining births, is tasked with producing children by proxy for the infertile women of a higher social status.

Gilead is oppressive and unpleasant, and Offred often finds herself reminiscing about the “time before”, when she lived with her husband and daughter, and when she had a job and money of her own. Amongst the handmaids, there’s seething rage but also psychological confusion, which not only keeps the reader interested but Offred, as a character, alive. She’s absent, but simultaneously defiant, often looking for household objects to steal and hide for her own satisfaction.

But living such an existence is exhausting and debilitating; it soon becomes clear that it’s only a matter of time before Offred’s life in Gilead runs out. The question is: how will it end?