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Old 2nd Jul 2008, 1:21   #23
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Join Date: 31 Oct 2006
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Post Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

Originally Posted by kirsty
Beth, yes, I agree with your view of the feminism in the book.

Offred/June is never going to be the most reliable of narrators because she is still obviously processing what is going on herself, so if she can't fully make sense of what is going on around her, then neither can we. Also, with regards to the lack of detail about how the regime came to be, perhaps even she doesn't fully know?

Also, I agree with Becca about the future of Gilead being more horrifying when people still retain a memory of the old world. I think the other horrifying thing about Gilead is that there seem to be no chance of a resistance building. Those who hold power will protect it at all costs, the Eyes are everywhere, and there is no leniency for anyone who is caught doing something wrong.

In some ways we can compare the situation of women in ultra-fundamentalist Muslim states. I don't mean that to sound glib, but think about it: there are countries NOW where women are stoned to death for being raped, because *they* committed adultery (in Gilead only women can be infertile). Women can't drive in some countries, and where they are allowed to, they have to have a family male in the car with them. They lose rights to their children. They are killed for bringing dishonour to their family by being attracted to the wrong person. In that light, Gilead isn't so very far away from some things that are happening to women in the world now, let alone when THT was written in the 80s. So while I've read other people over the years saying that the feminist aspects are cack-handed or overly simplified, in many ways they're really not, and perhaps that's the warning we can take from it.

Obviously, the situations aren't exact - part of the horror of THT is that there was a "normal" society that has been destroyed. Just a feminist-y thought.
Really interesting to see how may of us have changed our views a bit since first reading this book - although I'm still on JS's side of the fence for most of it.

But I think Atwood was indeed thinking globally when she wrote this novel; societies repressive to women did and do exist, as kirsty notes; we just had less of it on the internet and fewer huge terrorists attacks to remind us and make it vivid.

Also, re the queries below:

Originally Posted by kirsty
The thing I would like to know is what countries outside the US think of Gilead... international political ramifications. Which it's not the place of the novel to shed light on, but just a thought I had. For example, if they'd fled to Canada then presumably life would have carried on as usual. Is the military might of Gilead so strong that Canada didn't try to intervene? Or is that what all the men are off fighting about? Trying to protect and expand Gilead's borders?
I think there's a potential hopelessness in THT that says "don't think that escaping to Canada will help." Atwood was very much present in Canada during a time in the 60s when it did; e.g., the great influx of American "draft-dodgers" into Canada to avoid being "drafted" into the Viet Nam War. Many ended up in Canadian universities. Many found other jobs. But they had no idea that the war would have no perceptible end. (Propaganda about the Korean conflict neglected to say that Western forces, esp. the U.S., didn't win that one either.)

So I think Kirsty's questions are good and definitely relevant to what Atwood wants us to ask after reading the novel. I think Atwood is taking repressive mentalities of all kinds, putting then in exotic (but not unrecognizable) costumes, and saying something like: This is the world now; hang on to the few remaining humane, liberal instincts we have, or we could easily not have them much longer. Not in "Canada", not anywhere.

Very spooky.

Last edited by aemy; 2nd Jul 2008 at 1:25. Reason: add
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