Margaret Atwood began writing The Handmaid’s Tale in 1984 during a stay in West Berlin. It was the atmosphere of the era -- the secrets, the silences, the furtive eyes and hushed voices -- that drove the story forward.
Modern day America rests atop 17th-century Puritan roots which greatly influenced her fabrication of the Republic of Gilead. Atwood weaves an entire dystopian theocracy based off the Book of Genesis. This paradoxical society revolves around a dire need for procreation, with all attempts to return to more traditional values resulting in the repression of basic human rights, particularly for women.
Atwood wholeheartedly convinces us that the United States has been taken over by a pious totalitarian regime, applying biblical precedents in a literal manner to the characters’ lives. Handmaids are forced to renounce their identities and become baby-making machines, conforming to the patriarchy’s oppressive laws with no rights of their own.
There is no better time than today to look back at the events of The Handmaid’s Tale. Our current political climate provides the quintessential background to examine issues, such as feminism, manipulation of power and self-identity. Satire and dark humor continuously draws me in through a roller coaster ride of emotions.
I am compelled to think and question. Atwood’s story may not be a prediction for our future, but rather a warning. Maybe if the consequences of such events are already recorded, they are less likely to occur.
Historical methods of oppression such as group executions, book burnings, slavery and polygamy feed into story of Offred, our protagonist who is a Handmaid during an early era of the Republic. She is a witness, keeping a record of her new life. It is Offred’s voice that speaks to the reader.
History tends to repeat itself when we do not have the proper knowledge to prevent it.
The Handmaid's Tale returns for a second season on Hulu in April.