Offred is a handmaid in Gilead, which used to be known as the USA. Being a handmaid means she is assigned to an important family where her job is to become pregnant and reproduce for the family, as many people struggle with fertility issues. Women in general are severely limited in their rights in Gilead. But Offred managed to hold on to a last shred of wanting more than her assigned lot.
I read The Handmaid’s Tale in school many years ago and some of its imagery burned themselves into my brain. But I don’t think I appreciated the book for all that it offers at that time. I am pretty sure that I understood and liked it more reading it now.
I read The Handmaid’s Tale shortly after I really started reading books in English (when I was 16 or so) and at the time I was proud of understanding and even enjoying reading books like that, but I was far from being able to really parse the beauty (or lack thereof) in prose. By now I have reached that point and this means that Atwood’s wonderfully clear language that is at once deceptively simple and highly emotional really captivated me this time around.
And it’s not just her language that took me in much more, it’s also the politics of the novel. I don’t think there was ever a time in my life where I wasn’t a feminist at heart (though I, like many others, went through that phase of denouncing feminism in favor of “equalism” and I have had and sometimes still have my share of internalized misogyny to work through), but by now I’m outspokenly feminist and I consider myself pretty well-educated. Through that lense, The Handmaid’s Tale and its dystopia becomes even more meaningful. There are so many ways in which women are mistreated here. And the fact that it is still so absolutely current is terrifying. I mean, the book is as old as I am. We should be farther.
But it wasn’t just my head that was with the story every step of the way, I was also absolutely emotionally invested in Offred and her story. I rooted for her in every second.
All of that makes The Handmaid’s Tale an absolute classic and an important book. I can only recommend reading it.
Summarizing: really good.