Jay Gowen's Reviews > The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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's review
Jan 23, 2008

did not like it
Read in January, 1994

I don't have much to say beyond this:

The premise of this book is completely flawed. It supposes that American society will move toward a religiously oppressive government--restricting women's rights and sexual freedom between couples. To my knowledge, there has never been a western civilization which has moved from secular to religious government. It is ALWAYS the other way around; it is the nature of societies with a Greco-roman pedigree, and there is no shred of evidence that America would be any different. (Eastern societies of course, are a separate matter).

On top of that, in Atwood's America, sex for pleasure is oulawed. Some religions may preach that sex is just for procreation, but to take it to the extreme portrayed in this book goes against human nature.

It's one thing to paint a bleak and terrifying picture of the future to serve as a clarion call to others, but to abandon common sense and human nature in the process makes the entire exercise, as demonstrated by The Handmaid's Tale, irrelevant.
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01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Atwood is a Canadian and very politically liberal. I agree the premise is flawed. However, it's been my experience that many who lean to the left are afraid of this very thing. For example, they often complain of Pres. Bush's religiosity or any type of church and state issue.

message 2: by Jay (new) - rated it 1 star

Jay Gowen You're right. The left's fear of the religious right is profoundly real, and in my opinion, completely irrational. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are very much alive in this country. Thank goodness.

Nikki Boisture Perhaps I am not reading your review correctly. Are you saying you don't like this book because a fictional book should always follow the logic and reason of the real world? Because America would never get to that extreme, there should not be a fictional work depicting this very instance?

I seriously doubt the existence of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizadry, but that doesn't mean the Harry Potter books should exist.

message 4: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne You nailed the reason this dystopic society doesn't ring true. Its premise goes AGAINST the human tendency to create a family or at least have sex for fun. The great thing about Orwell's writing is he takes human nature down the slippery slope. Hence its timelessness and truth. About your claim that no Western society has gone from secular to religious government, I believe the English Revolution under Cromwell might be one brief example. Another would be the Puritan Separatists in the New World, but that wasn't really a revolution per se.

Helena "To my knowledge, there has never been a western civilization which has moved from secular to religious government."
First, Poland DOES exist. Sadly. GWB exists as well, and so exist people who are capable of voting for him. Even McCain/Palin got some votes.

Second, fascism, communism and ~*~religion~*~ in Gilead are all behaving like religion - giving people sense of purpose, telling them what's wrong and what's right, what to do to be blessed / good citizen etc. Simply: taking away responsibility and uncomfortable existential questions.

Plus, Atwood does not claim that Gilead existed for long time - and Nazi Germany, Soviet Union and China all tried to centralize upbringing of children. They all failed, but that does not mean someone else won't try it again.

message 6: by Starling (new)

Starling I tried to read this book when it was new and it annoyed the hell out of me. I was a SF fan and I found most writers who have never read any SF who insist on writing SF anyway generally just don't get it right.

Judy I don't see any SF in the book. It all exists in a dystopia but there's nothing to suggest technological differences.

Sean Iran would like to have a word with you.

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