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Old 7th Jul 2008, 17:14   #31
Paradox
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

I first read this shortly after it came out and hated it, all I could feel was horror and anger at the situation. I am so glad I saw this thread and decided to give Atwood another chance.
Colyngbourne wrote:
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Unless I convince myself that Nick did manage to get Offred out of danger, I find very poor portraits of men in this book.
In the "Historical Notes" at the end I was 99% certain the tapes they found were Offred's, so I have to believe she got out successfully and the reason she was never heard from again is one that the lecturer spoke of - namely fear of reprisals against her daughter and Luke.

Colyngbourne wrote:
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how does the society empower itself to carry on as a society? Does it scatter its remnants to the winds, to reproduce where and when and if they can? Or does it collectivise? Is the immanent decease of the human race the point at which the people begin to serve society, rather than the other way around?
It is hard for us in our time frame to wrap our heads around this scenario, but if the human race were to survive something along those lines would have to be done.
It reminds me a bit of The Day of the Triffids, when it had to be decided by some groups that men taking on more than one wife, sighted and blind was the only key to their survival as a species.

John Self wrote about the flatness of the prose, and the reasons, I agree, but I also think she injected just enough pathos to satisfy. If satisfy is the right word.

BecckaK wrote:
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Offred's narrative was not satisfactory. She retained too much knowledge and experience of the pre-Gilead society to be so unreflective and narrow in her portrayal of Gilead.
Couldn't this simply be because she was in still in shock from the events? Her portrayal of Gilead had to be narrow in scope because they were not allowed to see news, magazines...etc. Nothing, not even read the signs on storefronts. Her bank account was frozen without warning, suddenly she was dependent on Luke, and even loving someone is not a substitute for financial independence. She felt the difference right away. Her child was taken, she lost everything in practically one felled swoop. Enough to put even the strongest, best educated person in shock.

The really frightening thing to me is the statements that were made that spoke of the next generation of women being acclimatized to the situation. It's all too true I am afraid.
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Old 8th Jul 2008, 3:53   #32
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

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I wonder. Given enough time and dedication, I am afraid that anything can be made palatable to people, especially if it is made to look as though it is "for the good of society". At least enough people to stuff it down the throats of the rest of us.
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It is hard for us in our time frame to wrap our heads around this scenario, but if the human race were to survive something along those lines would have to be done.
It reminds me a bit of The Day of the Triffids, when it had to be decided by some groups that men taking on more than one wife, sighted and blind was the only key to their survival as a species.
When I first read your thoughts, Paradox, I thought they might be contradictory, but I haven't read The Day of the Triffids. Then, when I went back to read more closely, the words ''some groups'' jumped out and I think I see more what you are saying. It is hard to wrap around a scenario where individual freedoms would have to be surrendered to protect the race. In such a situation, who gets to decide? Brute force, group force, ''superpowers''? When I think about the Handmaid, I think about the power of the individual, in lots of different ways, to stand up to oppression. What's that little phrase? Nill illigitimi carborundum. Another thing about this novel are the three quotes on the frontspage, the last of which I can't figure out at all.

In the desert there is no sign that says,
Thou shalt not eat stones. - Sufi proverb


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Old 8th Jul 2008, 4:34   #33
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

In The Day of the Triffids, Bill Masen the main charactor comes across many groups handling the 'end of society' in different ways, some shackle together the blind ones and lead them about to find food, some actually kill them, in the first part he runs across a more 'reasonable' group that organizes in such a way that a sighted man may take a sighted wife only if he takes a blind one as well, and gets children on both thus perpetuating the sighted population.
Ok, you haven't read it, in the book 99% of the human race had been blinded by strange comets one night. Naturally the outcome is rather bizarre.

That is what I was referring to by different groups, IOW different groups of people that have banded together after a society has fallen apart for whatever reason.

Regarding the Sufi proverb, I consulted Sir Google and came up with this interesting page.
In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones
Either explanation is possible, both speak of control of product and could apply.
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Old 11th Jul 2008, 11:43   #34
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

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. It is hard to wrap around a scenario where individual freedoms would have to be surrendered to protect the race. In such a situation, who gets to decide? Brute force, group force, ''superpowers''?
I dont think so. Think of Afghanistan, where, while women never experienced the kinds of freedoms that western women have, they certainly had a much better life pre Taliban. The Taliban are in favour of promulgating a faith rather than the human race, I know, but their rule does certainly demonstrate the ease over which those in power can reduce those not in power to virtual slaves.

And just think, Beth, how many in the west, particulary in the United States right now, are willing to give up freedoms to fight the scalled "war on terror". Think of Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, and many other acts of Congress whose names and numbers I don't know.

So sometimes it's brute force as in the Taliban and other times it's legislative force, as in the Bush government. Again, like Oryx and Crake, Atwood just takes existing technologies and social beliefs and pushes them forward by asking "What if". The seeds are always there in the present. Even Offred's husband, pre-Giliad- did not find her losing access to her bank accounts so abhorent.
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Old 11th Jul 2008, 16:31   #35
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

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It is hard to wrap around a scenario where individual freedoms would have to be surrendered to protect the race. In such a situation, who gets to decide? Brute force, group force, ''superpowers''?
Whoever has gathered the most power, IOW money, influence and army.
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When I think about the Handmaid, I think about the power of the individual, in lots of different ways, to stand up to oppression.
That is probably about equal to a drip of water on cement over the years, possibly effective over the years and decades, but only in the very long run, and that faucet can be turned off/eliminated with the proper tool, as can the undercover agent, saboteur, etc.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 0:43   #36
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

Ah yes, but erosion wrought the Grand Canyon, eh? I do understand your points, Paradox and Oryx, but when it comes to feminism or any movement that works to bring parity into jagged corners, I think the only way to bring about lasting change is one little red dress at a time. And the more general public reckonings usually come about only after a few lonely souls stake their claim to the best seats on the bus, wouldn't you agree? I think feminism has come so far and that it's up to each woman to take it further by creating more personal power, something which can't be legislated. I know progress could always be undone, but there's a bit of cockeyed optimism to my thinking that keeps pushing forward, never sliding back in dread. Atwood would probably disagree with me on this, don't you think? She's perfect at bringing awareness to women's issues with her infinitely readable irony.

Two years ago, I read Alias Grace and enjoyed it as much or more than The Handmaid's Tale. Even though Grace's ''liberation'' is at a much darker level, she preserves something of herself in stiff odds.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 2:41   #37
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I just finished a few hours ago, and am still thinking about it. I'm going to stay below the political crossfire, but in the meantime I can certainly say that Atwood has a very nice way of telling a story in a realistic conversational voice that seemingly comes straight from a very real and believable Offred. It is intriguing to me that this tight little enclave, at first seemingly so secure and in control, is beset by forces from outside the walls which we know little about. but also has the seeds of dissolution below the surface and well-advanced within. Which to my mind makes for a poor prognosis for the future of the experiment. So I'm left groping a little for the intended message.

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Old 14th Jul 2008, 1:51   #38
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

This is an interesting cross-over with the discussion in Jennifer's 'Backlash' politics thread. There is a quote from Kira Cochrane's original 'Now, the Backlash' article which seems to say the same thing that you are saying Beth.

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there's always been a backlash, ever since day one of women's existence - long before it's ever been documented. So the concept of backlash is always alive, it's just that there are times when you think that we are really sinking into a cesspit. What I would say, though, is that, for all the resistance, I don't think we ever take two steps back. I think we only ever take steps forward, but those steps can be smaller and harder, like wading through treacle, or sometimes you can have a little sprint, a spurt, and think, 'That's fantastic, we've won that little battle.'
"What a backlash does is that it curtails us, but we never take those two steps back, and that's what I think can send the conservatives - and I mean that with a small 'c' - and the rightwingers, and the upholders of the traditional family, absolutely wild, because whatever they throw at us, so what? What do they think we're going to do? Go back to how we were before? Go back into the kitchen and make them a sandwich? We might be wading through treacle at the moment," she says, "but the fact is that they won't actually win".
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Old 14th Jul 2008, 3:35   #39
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

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I just finished a few hours ago, and am still thinking about it. I'm going to stay below the political crossfire, but in the meantime I can certainly say that Atwood has a very nice way of telling a story in a realistic conversational voice that seemingly comes straight from a very real and believable Offred. It is intriguing to me that this tight little enclave, at first seemingly so secure and in control, is beset by forces from outside the walls which we know little about. but also has the seeds of dissolution below the surface and well-advanced within. Which to my mind makes for a poor prognosis for the future of the experiment. So I'm left groping a little for the intended message.
I think I am going to continue to grope, privately. I just have too many questions about the book and its intended implications. But, as I reread this thread, I realize that I am nowhere near well enough equipped to wend my way safely through the maze of gender and religious issues that present themselves either. So, I pass, and at this point I'm not even sure it is safe for me to say, despite my questions, that I enjoyed the book.
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Old 14th Jul 2008, 4:20   #40
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Default Re: Book 54: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

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I think I am going to continue to grope, privately. I just have too many questions about the book and its intended implications. But, as I reread this thread, I realize that I am nowhere near well enough equipped to wend my way safely through the maze of gender and religious issues that present themselves either. So, I pass, and at this point I'm not even sure it is safe for me to say, despite my questions, that I enjoyed the book.
I think people would be keen to hear your thoughts...
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