The madness of the governments
2011/01/10 § 1 Comment
I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale yesterday evening,
and I will thus try to write one of my horrible, superficial and short reviews (this is how much I miss going to school).
“Better never means better for everyone, he says.
It always means worse for some.“
The Handmaid’s Tale (if the book is unfamiliar to you; it is written by Margaret Atwood) was released in the mid-80s, and is a dystopian novel set in the near future. The book is put together from tapes of a woman talking about her life in an totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the US government by a racist, chauvinist and theocratic military coup as a response to the social, ecological and physical degradation of the world.
A staged terrorist attack, blamed on Islamic extreme terrorists, kills the president and this enables the movement called Sons of Jacob to launch a revolution under the pretext of restoring order. They use the electronic banking as a mean to freeze the assets of all undesirables (meaning everyone except Caucasian males, as far as I could tell).
The United States of America change name to the Republic of Gilead – women are given certain chores to “lighten the weight” by not having only one single female in a family. Offred, our protagonist, is a handmaid. Due to the reproduction rates being dangerously low, handmaids, fertile females, are assigned elite families that have trouble conceiving, to bear children. Every month the Handmaids have impersonal sex with their Commander while the Commander’s Wife lays behind her (!), holding her hands. The Handmaids have very limited freedom, leaving the house only on shopping trips, the door to her room cannot be shut completely and the Eyes, the secret police force, watch whatever is being done in public. The women are basically natural resources, a way to heighten the reproduction rates.
“I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . .
Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am
and glows red within its translucent wrapping.”
Religion is very important in Gilead, seeing as it is a theocracy. Many of the roles (or professions, if you will) are thus created from biblical terminology – the police are called Guardians of Faith, soldiers are Angels, servants are Marthas. Gilead’s women are defined by their gender role – Wife, daughter, Aunt, Handmaid, or Martha. Based on their gender role, the women are given a very specific set of clothes and colouring, red – the colour of the flesh – being the colour of the Handmaids. Feminists, fighting to bring back the previous era, are called Unwomen. There is even an officially sanctioned language, where saying the wrong thing in a conversation, or in the wrong order, can lead to immediate death.
“The problem wasn’t only with the women, he says.
The main problem was with the men. There was nothing for them anymore . . .
I’m not talking about sex, he says. That was part of it, the sex was too easy . . .
You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel.
Men were turning off on sex, even. They were turning off on marriage.
Do they feel now? I say.
Yes, he says, looking at me. They do.“
I will not reveal any more, as I am afraid to ruin the experience (a very important part when I read a book). Just to make it clear; I really liked this book. It was, to a certain degree, realistic in how the government was overthrown though it was not dwelled much upon (my brain is filled with facts about coups, dictators and totalitarian regimes, so it was quite easy to fill in the blanks). The freaky part was how, though I felt disgusted with the treatment and the repression and objectification of the women, I could feel a little temptation towards having such a simple, restricted and planned life (at least for a week). What I really liked was how they said that the revolution also was a revolution for the women – no longer having to degrade themselves to find a mate, no longer having to do everything in a household, no longer needing to be afraid of rape. “”There is more than one kind of freedom… Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”
If tempted, you should give this book a try, just a few chapters. It is an easy read and it sure gives plenty of food for thought!
“Don’t let the bastards grind you down. I repeat this to myself
but it conveys nothing. You might as well say,
Don’t let there be air; or Don’t be.
I suppose you could say that.”
Next up is Oryx and Crake. So excited!