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The Handmaid's Tale (The Handmaid's Tale, #1)
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message 2: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Jerry commented on the 1984 thread: I loved Atwood's commentary in the GAR launch episode that she was careful to only describe events that have actually already happened in the past to fight the idea that "that couldn't happen".

I really want to read this book soon!


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 01, 2018 05:43AM) (new)

I tried reading The Handmaid's Tale last year. Ugh! I struggled with Atwood's writing style and that greatly affected my dislike for this book. The tv series is just a smidge better than the book.


Tasha I think this was my first Atwood and I really enjoyed it. It was my first read on my brand new kindle (at the time) so I think I had some extenuating circumstances as well. ;) But I ended up rating it 5*.


Sheila (sheilaj) My real life bookclub is reading this in Sept. so I will need to wait on this one.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Terrified me. I was born in the 1950’s, so a lot of it was real for me.


message 7: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Sheila wrote: "My real life bookclub is reading this in Sept. so I will need to wait on this one."


Nyla (nylap) | 38 comments I am looking forward to reading this one and discussing it with the group. It's one of those titles that I know I should already have read by now!


Jacinta | 70 comments I was lukewarm on this book when I read it, but it's been a while, so it might be worth rereading. I did watch and enjoy the first season of the TV adaptation.

For those who have read the book or watched the show, what do you think of the many readers/viewers (let's be real, mostly viewers) who suggest that this story is of particular relevance in today's America? Do you see any of the novel's dystopian concerns (totalitarian religious government, oppression of women, fertility issues, etc.) playing out in our society?


message 10: by Kirsten (new) - added it

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I have seen elements in our society, more and more.... I was seeing them 20 years ago!!!! But with this new administration it's gotten worse and worse.

I've watched the first season, but I loved the book long before that. Margaret Atwood is Canadian so she is close enough to our country to see how bad it is. Remember the first Americans were Puritans and much of that strain is still strong.

It amazes me that some people still cannot see the danger posed. They should not look at Handmaid's Tale as a fantasy. After all, Margaret Atwood herself calls her fiction "speculative".


Jacinta | 70 comments What aspects of her speculative fiction do you see most prominently under the current administration? To some extent, I understand what people mean, but it would be helpful to hear a more explicit argument. How, for example, are women treated more like mindless incubators now than in the 1950s? Or how is religion more evident in today's jurisprudence than back when fornication and sodomy were illegal?

(not taking a position here, just curious about where people see The Handmaid's Tale so prominently in American culture)


message 12: by Julie (last edited Jun 20, 2018 07:37AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments Agree with Jacinta.
People actively practicing religion is at an all time low. And our president has many many powerful women in his administration. As a matter of fact, the women seem to be doing better than the men.

In spite of fear stoked by the media, Trump hasn't done anything to undermine women's rights. And with the whole #metoo thing, some men are finally being held accountable for things that were common practice 30 years ago.

The only thing that I see in today's society is the digitization of money.


Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments As far as the book is concerned, I'm finding it really slow - although it is picking up toward the end. Maybe that's on purpose, so we get the feeling of ennui that the women must feel.

But I've really had to work at this one. Thank heaven I'm almost done!


Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments Did it always have that weird "History of Gilead" thing at the end?

I think the first time I read it, I probably skipped all that. When I was younger I never read author's notes or prefaces, so I probably figured it wasn't part of the book.


message 15: by Joy, Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Did it always have that weird "History of Gilead" thing at the end?

I think the first time I read it, I probably skipped all that. When I was younger I never read author's notes or prefaces, so I ..."


I read it the first time i read the book. I'd assumed it was part of the story.


message 16: by Joy, Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Jacinta wrote: "What aspects of her speculative fiction do you see most prominently under the current administration? To some extent, I understand what people mean, but it would be helpful to hear a more explicit ..."

The separating of children and parents is happening right now and is a very large part of how the handmaid's tale plays out.


Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments At the risk of getting involved in a political flamewar...
It's much more nuanced than that. In the case of unaccompanied minors, the families have voluntarily separated themselves.
In the case of families, they are not being separated permanently - just during processing. Which - granted - takes way too long.

It's a horrible situation all the way around, but we can't just open our borders to everyone - the government already can't support all the entitlements they are on the hook for.


message 18: by Kirsten (new) - added it

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Julie wrote: "At the risk of getting involved in a political flamewar...
It's much more nuanced than that. In the case of unaccompanied minors, the families have voluntarily separated themselves.
In the case of ..."


Uh, I don't know where you're getting your reporting but you're a little off.

Things to think about.

1) Many of these people are not illegal immigrants. They are APPLYING for asylum.

2) Many of the parents are being processed to be removed from the country. Some are even sent out of the country WITHOUT ANY DISCUSSION OF UNITING THEM WITH THEIR CHILDREN.

Yes, we can't open our country but that's not what this is about. This is about cruelty. Ask yourself if you heard about another country doing this. Would you be outraged? Then you should be outraged and ashamed of your own country doing this.


Jacinta | 70 comments J. wrote: "The separating of children and parents is happening right now and is a very large part of how the handmaid's tale plays out."

That's true and deeply alarming. Do you think the family separation we're seeing now has similar aims to the separation in the book/what do you think are the aims of each?

In the book, it seems like those in authority use the Bible to justify treating "lower class" women (as determined by those in power) as if they were sacred surrogates, despite leaving them no true choice. We've certainly heard some Biblical references in relation to the border separations, but in kind of a different sense...I would even say a more disingenuous sense because today's leaders are using it to justify strict application of the law (which THEY enact and execute).


Jacinta | 70 comments We should probably try to keep the political discussion tied to our interpretations of the book. That way, if we interpret either current events or the novel differently from one another, at least it's still on-topic and needn't become personal.


message 21: by Joy, Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Jacinta wrote: "J. wrote: "The separating of children and parents is happening right now and is a very large part of how the handmaid's tale plays out."

That's true and deeply alarming. Do you think the family se..."


If I am remembering the text correctly (I read it several months ago) there were several instances of families being separated. Obviously once the women had been detained, brainwashed (or retaught as they frame it in the book), and then assigned to a family unit as a breeder any children they physically birthed were taken away.

But also, in the flashback sections, you could see the signs of where society was heading and those things included family separation, the digitization of money (which has been mentioned), and what I would call misusing religion to set-up a specific societal design using laws and established institutions.

These are things that are happening right now (which was part of the question posed to the group) and I don't believe it is inflammatory because they are basic, provable events that are taking place.

Do you think the family separation we're seeing now has similar aims to the separation in the book/what do you think are the aims of each?

To answer the last question first I believe the current aims are to bring our society back to what those in power believe were "the good old days" ignoring for a moment that those days were only good for white men with money or power. I find it alarmingly similar to the aims of those in power in the book. To me the parallels to the book and current events are incredibly stark and I have a difficult time seeing the book outside of the framework of the current state of society.


Jacinta | 70 comments J. wrote: "These are things that are happening right now (which was part of the question posed to the group) and I don't believe it is inflammatory because they are basic, provable events that are taking place."

I don't think anything you said was inflammatory, I just wanted to proceed with an abundance of caution. From what I see every day on social media - Goodreads included! - it seems to take very little to send people spiraling into a heated and polarizing argument, and I was just talking to some Goodreads users who said they shy away from meaningful literary discussions on the site because they've felt attacked before. I was just trying to get in front of the ball. :)

I appreciate your connection of the border detentions and family separations. For some reason, when you mentioned that, I overlooked the obvious parent-child separations in the book (babies from their Handmaid mothers) and was thinking only of the flashbacks. Those seem more closely related to your analysis of what's happening in America right now. Taking children from their parents seems like a form of psychological warfare intended to sap parents of the will to fight, making them easier to control. In the novel, it makes for broken, submissive handmaids, and in immigration, it prevents parents from fighting for asylum and disincentivizes immigration in the first place.

It's at least heartening that in our current situation, the outcry against the practice was rapid and echoed across the ideological divide separating one half of the country from the other.


Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments You


Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments With all due respect, I think some of the things said were inflammatory.

You talk about "basic provable events'. Unless you are an immigration attorney or work border patrol, your information is no more verifiable than mine.

You say:
"what I would call misusing religion to set-up a specific societal design using laws and established institutions."
These are things that are happening right now (...) and I don't believe it is inflammatory because "they are basic, provable events that are taking place."

And I'd like an example of how religion is being misused to set up any kind of societal design. If anything, the courts are trying to eliminate religion completely.

I never said anything about "illegal immigrants". People are applying for asylum because it's the easiest way to gain legal status.

If it's cruel to enforce the law, then the law should be changed. All attempts of the last two administrations to address the problem seem to make it worse.

Randomly enforcing only the laws we like is equally cruel and unjust.

When you tell me how to feel about my country, that IS personal and it is inflammatory.


message 25: by Joy, Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "With all due respect, I think some of the things said were inflammatory.

You talk about "basic provable events'. Unless you are an immigration attorney or work border patrol, your information is ..."


I joined the discussion with a simple sentence: The separating of children and parents is happening right now and is a very large part of how the handmaid's tale plays out. One that in no way conveyed my OPINION on the matter. You chose to respond to what you thought my opinion was, which is when i believe the discussion became inflammatory.

You seem to be very passionate about this issue. I am simply conveying my thoughts on the book and how I can see it in relation to the world around me. Which I should add was in response to a question posed on this board and not simply to flaunt my own political opinion.

With all due respect to you, I feel like you continue to personally attack me for having a difference of political opinion from yourself, although I have not stated any political opinions outside of attempting to discuss a book and you therefore cannot know what opinions I hold. Furthermore, I never suggested that you or anyone else should feel any way about the United States or even hold the same opinion as me with regards to interpreting the book.

As for the provoking questions you posed to me in your last post, they have nothing to do with the book this discussion thread is about and I do not intend to answer them. I refuse to be dragged into an argument with someone who is misrepresenting my words and twisting them into a message I did not convey.

I am happy to discuss the book and different interpretations or insights that other readers had, even those that disagree with my own, but I will not allow myself to be attacked or misrepresented.


message 26: by Joy, Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Jacinta wrote: "I appreciate your connection of the border detentions and family separations. For some reason, when you mentioned that, I overlooked the obvious parent-child separations in the book (babies from their Handmaid mothers) and was thinking only of the flashbacks. Those seem more closely related to your analysis of what's happening in America right now. Taking children from their parents seems like a form of psychological warfare intended to sap parents of the will to fight, making them easier to control. In the novel, it makes for broken, submissive handmaids, and in immigration, it prevents parents from fighting for asylum and disincentivizes immigration in the first place."

First, let me say, I appreciate your abundance of caution in regards to civil discourse. Thank you.

I do believe that in the book it is used as a way to disconnect a person from their individuality. To focus them on living for the good of the newly established society instead of what they determine to be the good of themselves. In the book there are many psychological methods employed to keep those in society complacent to the evils/injustices that are being enacted, family separation being one of them. In the book, it is shown as an effective way to strip a person of a sense of meaningful belonging so that they in turn seek out a substitute, i.e. the community of handmaidens.


Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments OK we seem to be misunderstanding each other. And I apologize for that.

You may not be aware of this, but writing in all caps is the equivalent of shouting. So I felt like I was defending myself and not personally attacking you.

So let's agree to disagree. I do not see parallels to the Handmaid's Tale in today's society. However today's political climate, where people are increasingly afraid to express their opinions because disagreements become so personal and escalate so quickly

I think we can all agree that political discourse is not for the faint of heart these days, and that is scarier to me than anything in the Handmaid's tale.


message 28: by Kirsten (new) - added it

Kirsten  (kmcripn) The people that say that religion is being eliminated by government miss the real point. Religion is hurting people so many leave it. Thereby making people insist that their government protect their rights.

The government does many things that can be based on religion, that if religion was removed, might be better.

- our foreign policy in regards to Israel: if Israel were any other country it would be under sanctions.

- the laws about or regarding women, darker skinned people, and gays/transgender people. We are also supposed to be "equal under the law". But people fight so hard against it thinking since woman was created from Adam's rib and to be Adam's "helpmeet," using Leviticus/Paul to discriminate against gays, and treating darker skinned people because they are believed to be "Cain's descendants".

Also, Handmaids Tale was written in the 1980s and had parallels then, it even has more now. We have a VP (and possible President) who won't even eat with a woman without his wife present.

Just realize that the society represented in Handmaid's Tale (like Hitler's Germany) probably started gradually. The rights of women (and others) are being eroded slowly. The point is the idea that we are represented as being worth less.


message 29: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Kirsten wrote: "The people that say that religion is being eliminated by government miss the real point. Religion is hurting people so many leave it. Thereby making people insist that their government protect thei..

Also, Handmaids Tale was written in the 1980s and had parallels then, it even has more now. We have a VP (and possible President) who won't even eat with a woman without his wife present.

Just realize that the society represented in Handmaid's Tale (like Hitler's Germany) probably started gradually. The rights of women (and others) are being eroded slowly. The point is the idea that we are represented as being worth less. ."


Excellent comments!

Most big societal changes occur so gradually that it's hard to know when or how to intervene. 100 years ago we didn't have the right to vote. We keep gaining power, and sliding back a bit, gaining more, etc.

The decline in the sperm rate for human males might be a bigger problem than female infertility in the future. But it would be easier to force men to make donations to a sperm bank than to force women to become surrogates.


Regarding Pence not being alone with women without his wife...

I hate to say it, but in this current climate, that sounds like a pretty smart thing to do. He's acting with a huge "abundance of caution". He can't be accused of inappropriate behavior if he always has a chaperone/alibi! Unfortunately it will make it really tough for him to forge strong working relationships with female staff or cabinet members (let's hope he even has some women in prominent roles).

So in that way, the "me too" movement can have a chilling effect on communication and advancement for some women. If we react too strongly to relatively mild cases, it could weaken the movement considerably. They aren't all Harvey Weinstein, so we shouldn't treat them all with the same level of public condemnation. There's always some backlash.

Even back in the 90's when sexual harassment first became well known, I noticed that male executives were overly careful in the way that they talked with me. (I was the only female executive in the company, and their former president was fired for harassment before I joined the company.). They would look at one another nervously if one of them said the word "pissed" (which I happen to use myself when I'm mad.) As a result it was hard to build comfortable working relationships that would enable us to discuss tough issues. I was left out of many social activities that a male in my job would have been invited to. (Not that I really wanted to go to Hooters lol).


message 30: by Atl (new) - rated it 3 stars

Atl (dark_leo) I have the ebook and the paperback and it will be a reread for me.


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