More than once I’ve read Margaret Atwood’s novel of the dystopian country of Gilead, formerly known as the United States of America. Each reading of The Handmaid’s Tale has caused me to see some new and horrifying aspect of a brave new world in which some women, those who are fertile, are reduced to being nothing more than brood mares, while their infertile counterparts serve men in other ways.
When I first read the novel I was a young mom with two children underfoot, and I was devastated by the main character’s separation from her child. I couldn’t imagine anyone trying to take my babies away, and her heartache was my heartache.
The second time I read The Handmaid’s Tale my children were teenagers, and all I could think of was that my daughter could be used in this birthing scheme, while I would be relegated to being a Martha or an Auntie–someone whose only purpose in life was to cook or clean for a commander and his family.
When I read the book for a third time, Donald Trump had just been sworn in and I had just taken part in a women’s march to protest his misogynistic views. Now I read the book from a whole world perspective. I saw how women, with just a few winks and nods from Congress, could drop rapidly in status just because men declared us to be second class citizens.
Friends kept urging me to watch the Hulu series based on the book, but I was afraid I’d be disappointed. Now, after spending two days binge watching the first season on dvd, I’m in awe. Not only has the series captured the book perfectly in scope and mood, but it has also brought back every one of those emotions I experienced during my past experiences with the book.
The Handmaid’s Tale will take you by the shoulders and shake you until you’re only capable of seeing the paths that lie ahead. We really are on the cusp in this country, and this series reminds us to be wary. Keep resisting.