View Single Post
Old 1st Jul 2008, 12:15   #15
is a Palimpsester Extraordinaire
BeccaK's Avatar
Join Date: 17 Apr 2007
Location: Fife
Posts: 1,098
Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

Originally Posted by Colyngbourne View Post
I think this is why I feel it is not so much a feminist piece. The exigencies that Atwood has put upon her alt.history corner of the States (and the wider world by implication) makes it far more a novel about society, for me, than anything else.
I raced through The Handmaid's Tale in a day last week. A mistake, I think, as I'm not sure how I feel about it. The narrative was obviously absorbing and alarming enough to pull me in thoroughly, the kind of reading experience that I generally love. Certainly, the fact that this was a second read-through complicates my reaction a little; the first was when I was in my early- to mid-teens.

Then, The Handmaid's Tale was a horrifying work, one of a set of dystopian novels that I devoured as I drank in concepts and big ideas all around me. It was feminist, in that it championed the oppressed and suppressed female. I think it was probably mixed up with a lot of confused feelings of fear and fascination about sex.

But now, I'm struggling with the question of whether The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist work. I can't quite see how the novel works as a warning. I can see that the categorisation of women into Wives, Marthas, Handmaids, Jezebels, Unwomen, etc. echoes and complicates the virgin/mother/whore trichotomy. The pre-Gilead society is hardly free from this problem. Atwood makes this clear: her university-educated heroine takes a menial job, whilst her best friend burns her bra, and as society slides towards dystopia it is the powerful men, the Wizard of Oz figures, who are the architects of the new regime. So a fundamentalist regime is not the only thing that can oppress, surely? But am I allying myself with the Aunts by suggesting this?

The clearest moral lesson I can see, is that the kind of patriarchal structures that are in society encourage women to participate in the oppression of women. Will that do?
Reading: the Decameron - Boccaccio
2009 charlieledweaning

Last edited by BeccaK; 1st Jul 2008 at 12:45. Reason: some grammar
BeccaK is offline   Reply With Quote