Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
Margaret Atwood set up a dystopian society and did not show its downfall like many dystopian novels I read. Instead, she shows its weaknesses and exposes the darker side of things through the exploration of a person who remembers the world before the new government.
With the unique perspective of a Handmaid, a woman who is fertile, the society appears as evil, which is totally true. It would have been interesting, however, to see the society from a different perspective, like a Commander or a Wife. I did like how Offred’s storytelling resulted in scenarios being repeated numerous times in a variety of ways, which I know is a weird thing to like. The repetition, however, showed Offred’s humanity since through much of the book she simply tells the story how it is. When she gets to Nick’s part of the story, however, with that one… scene… at night… Yeah, we all know what I’m talking about if you’ve read the book. 😉
One thing I struggled with was whether or not Offred told the story with or without emotion. I went in believing she told the story without emotions because of a presentation given in my English class where I heard about this book. As the story went on, however, I found myself analyzing her emotions because I felt like they were hidden. At the end of the book, Offred appears to have emotions. I was not sure if I was projecting emotions into her character. Another idea I had was maybe more emotions are shown as Offred’s character develops and breaks away from the role the new society assigned her. I have all these theories, but I’m still not settled one.
Finally, what we have all been waiting for: that freaking ending that killed everyone and made me want to throw it into my imaginary fireplace. Readers can interpret the scene in two ways: 1. She gets taken by the actual government. or 2. Nick was telling the truth. I feel like Atwood wrote this scene to be interpreted either way, but I really wish I could talk to her and have her tell me which way it actually ended. Like… did a chapter get ripped out before printing began?? Anyways, her ending leaves readers believing one of these two things and it is really up to how the reader had been feeling towards certain events to how they wanted it to end. Personally, I wanted to trust Nick, but also, not quite. This is where I am torn with the ending.
Either way I love the book and will hopefully get a different copy because I spilled water on it. Or more accurately… my water bottle leaked in my bag. Anyways…
Have you read any other Margaret Atwood book? Which ones do you recommend? What did you think of the ending? Which water bottle brand should I get next? Let me know in the comments below!
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~