Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of Offred, a handmaid whose job is to birth a child to the Commander of Gilead. Women in Gilead are not allowed to read, are not allowed to have jobs, and cannot have any money. In the story, we find out that radical religious groups took over the country. Some people are taken away and never seen again to work in a radioactive war zone, some are allowed the choice to return to the lands of their faith, and some are kept in the country to provide rather hard services for a select group of higher-ups. What puts Offred in a dangerous situation is that she has not been able to conceive a child, and this is her 3rd family that she has been with. If Offred cannot become pregnant, she will be sent away. Throughout the story, we hear of Offred’s past, before the radical group takes over the country, and how Offred is living in a place where women are only valued for their reproductive abilities. We see through her eyes the oppression, the hardship, and the heartbreak Offred has had to face. Perhaps the most interesting characters in the story are the women. While some may be vindictive and cruel, the wonderful thing that this book does is make them three-dimensional and human. Offred is also such a relatable character. Most of the women in the book are all people we know in our lives. This is probably one of the book’s many strengths. When reading this book, it is very easy to think of someone when certain characters are introduced. Being a Gender and Women’s Studies major, this book is perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of fiction that every feminist or pro-woman thinker should read. While there are some problematic parts of the book, a reader will not be able to miss many of the similarities this books has with our world right now. I would very much recommend this book. It is powerful in many ways: emotionally, physically, and at times spiritually. When reading, you cannot help but think of certain parts of our society today. It is also not just for feminists and gender studies students. It is a book that anyone can read, as long as they are prepared for an emotional roller coaster!

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Review by Cici Bahr

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