“Yes, Ma’am, I said again, forgetting. They used to have dolls, for little girls, that would talk if you pulled a string at the back; I thought I was sounding like that, voice of a monotone, voice of a doll. She probably longed to slap my face. They can hit us, there’s Scriptural precedent. But not with any implement. Only with their hands.”
. . . . .
Imagine yourself sitting in your office, working and going about your usual routine while suddenly your boss walks in and says you’re all fired. If you question, the authorities will take strict actions. Then you walk out of the place, bewildered, trying to understand and yet ignore what you witnessed – you think of going to the nearby supermarket to continue with your routine. You get what you want and need but your card is declared invalid at the cashier counter. You’re told to go, again, without any explanation.
You reach home to learn how it’s not just your job and ability to use a card that was taken away from you, but that you’ll be ripped off of your basic rights as a human starting this second.
Wait, wait, there’s more. They’ve separated you from your family because the criteria of your marriage is a sin in their books. SO, you’ve lost yourself, your husband and your kid all in a day.
Let me introduce you to your new life now – The government that you’ve known so far, is no longer there. Somebody else is in charge now.
You’ll have a small room without any gadgets and any luxury. You’re not allowed to read, write and talk to anyone. Your duty? To bear a child for a highly ranked officer because his wife can’t. And no, you don’t get to keep the child. You’re not even allowed to think that it’s yours. Once the child’s born, you’re posted on to another couple.
You’re now a Handmaid. Just like Offred – a woman who had a real name before, a life and a family before, independence and luxuries before it all changed for her overnight. Now she’s named after the man she’s meant to bear a child for, Of-Fred.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, isn’t just a work of literature or a fictional narration. For me, It was an experience. Atwood introduced me to Offred and showed me around her tormenting and morbid world.
I’m not sure why I was so surprised by what went on there, because it’s almost similar to what goes on now – in our world, in this century.
Aren’t all those things happening now too? Isn’t Mrs so and so a subtle version of the Offreds and Ofglens in this 1985 dystopian novel? Aren’t women valued more on their reproductive abilities? Isn’t that what young girls are taught right when they’re able to understand things – Marriage and family and some subtle versions of subjugation. Aren’t rape victims made to believe that it’s all their fault – “what were you wearing” “what time was it” “who were you with” – just like what Janine went through in the book. It’s frightening to see the similarities regarding abortion in the book and what Trump’s doing.
While I was reading the book, I started researching a little and I found some blogs of people sharing their experiences similar to what goes on in the book. Many of them were dated just a year back. There are people who are taught such notions in the name of religion. Girls are taught to be okay with such forms of subjugation in the name of God and his plans.
Are we, the modern and civilised women, really free?
. . . . .
“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”
. . . . .
This book was definitely en eye opener to various things. However, extremely slow-paced. It took me a really long time to finish it. One of the reasons being, that for me it was a really heavy read. It left me drained each time I picked it up. I wanted to read more in a day and know how it ends but I just couldn’t. I could only read a chapter or two a day, which is highly unlike me. Offred takes you back and forth to her former and new life and sometimes, that got a little confusing and also it sort of broke my connection with the story that I had to regain to fully get into it.
Apart from Offred, I really liked Moira. She had a sense of reality and truth throughout. She was true to her fears and also her courage to do something about them. I was really glad to find that we didn’t lose her when she escaped as a handmaid.
However, I was slightly confused about Offred’s reality. Did she really have a daughter or was that something her mind developed as a purpose to give her the strength and a reason that she needed to survive.
“What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.”
Do I recommend this book? I’m not sure. It’s definitely a strong story. It gives you a different perspective, makes you think about things around you and jolts you to realise the reality. However, it’s definitely not an easy read. It’s not easy to see what Offred sees and to experience her life. It’s not easy when so many things from the book slap you in the face and burst your bubble(s). Offred herself is the narrator, and she’s broken, desperate and frustrated with a sole aim to make it through the night and live the next day. Also, I wasn’t completely satisfied with how it ended. I was looking forward to know how and where did Offred exactly end up.
Like I said, it left me drained and morbid. Having said that, it also gave me a new perspective, a new sense of observation and a better sense of understanding.
I’d love to know your thoughts on the book, if you’ve read it.
If you haven’t, would you like it to be your next read?
See you soon! 🙂