Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a wonderfully constructed story of social satire in the form of a first-person narrative. The story takes place in the future United States. The new regime of Gilead has to deal with war, hazardous wastes and a decline in the birth rate. Therefore, women are considered a precious resource, but their freedoms are revoked. Many, but especially the Handmaids, are afraid of being discovered in a transgression of the new order and being sent to the Colonies, where they are worked to death.
This story is an account of a Handmaid who, prior to the regime change, was a working wife and mother, but now is only valued for making children. This woman, named Offred by the government, fears for herself should she fail to produce children with the high-ranking Commander with whom she has been assigned to live.
This is a thrilling story that creates suspense from one experience to the next, and leaves you with many unanswered and disturbing questions. With feelings of loneliness and disorder, this story is conspiratorial and horrifying. Atwood writes as if the narrator is describing her thoughts and experiences from memory with constant flashbacks to the “time before” and to the time in the “Red Center” where she learned to be a Handmaid. This gives her writing personality, as does her sparse use of quotation marks. This poignant and engaging story, though disturbing, is well worth the read.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.