Q&A with Margaret Atwood discussion

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Handmaid's Tale--coming true?

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (elizabethmtimmins) | 3 comments 'The Handmaid's Tale' is one of the best books of all time. Do you think, as the years go by, that your fictional account is becoming reality?


message 2: by Rohan (new)

Rohan | 1 comments dear Margaret Atwood,

my ib class have been studying your book and it seems to be the more i read about the future in the book the more that i find that this is now becoming reality. Could you please give me some light on how you predicted these things in today's world?

i know this is going a bit off topic but i have been wanting to know whether you believe that Offred survived or not? your last line ends with uncertainty and does not make things very clear to me.

plus how long did it take you to write the book as it is so rich in imagery and detail that i feel that it might have taken you a better part of a decade to write such a masterpiece? And what do you believe is you best or most rich in content section of the book?

thank you
Rohan Bansal


message 3: by Kate (new)

Kate Bellew (katebellew) | 5 comments Did anyone else see The Handmaid's Tale movie? I was overwhelmed with just how much was changed from the book version. I understand completely that in making a movie based on a book, some details will be changed to better accommodate the new medium, but I felt in this case much of it was unnecessary. I wonder how much, if any, input Margaret had on the script of the production of the movie. Or maybe even her thoughts on the result?

It's such a wonderful story, though.


message 4: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (tatli) | 1 comments Yes, I did see the movie years ago after I finished the book. I neve expect to much from movies based on books but would be interested to know if Ms. Atwood was involved.


message 5: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (elizabethmtimmins) | 3 comments The movie was just as frightening as the book so I thought it did a pretty good job of picking up on the main themes. I thought the colors (drab) and the way it was filmed was very interesting. Nonetheless, the movie is hardly ever as good as the book! But great question--I would love to know if Margaret had any input and/or how she felt about the movie version of her most amazing book.


message 6: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Almost without exception, the book is better than the movie - it always loses something in the changes that get made to the plot in order to accommodate Hollywood/the movie audience.

However, there are some scenes that are just wonderfully visualized and they just 'stick with you', at least they did for me.

It really sank in that women were forbidden to read anything, and that they planned to rear all their children that way, when Offred went to market and all the food signs were pictographs rather than words.

The 'cattle car' scene of the women being sent to their deaths to do the radiological cleanup, after being funneled through the sorting center... was especially horrifying and evoked the Holocaust (as it was meant to, I'm sure.)


message 7: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments Did you realize, sadly, that the young woman who played Offred, Natasha Richardson, was the one killed in the ski accident a couple of years ago? Such a tragedy. :[ She was excellent in this movie.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

You've all got me interested in the Movie now, I love Natasha Richardson


message 9: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Deborah wrote: "Did you realize, sadly, that the young woman who played Offred, Natasha Richardson, was the one killed in the ski accident a couple of years ago? Such a tragedy. :[ She was excellent in this movie."

Yes, she died early last year (2009). She was the wife of Liam Neeson, and had acted in other movies as well, but I did think that she was excellent as Offred.


message 10: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments I thought the casting for the "Mary" with Faye Dunaway was prime! LOL She's a scary woman no matter what role she's in!!
It would be interesting to imagine who we'd cast in a remake....


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow I so agree with you Deborah!
Faye Dunaway just has this kind of aura about her. I can already see her in my mind as "Mary" lol


message 12: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments I could really see Angelica Huston as a "Mary," too. Or, if we're looking for a younger one, what about Nicole whatshername from Desperate Housewives??? The blond... :P


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Nicolette Sheridan...


message 14: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments That's the one! Thanks, Niecole. Who would you cast as the man?


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Mmmm someone old like Anthony Hopkins maybe?
Or Jack Lemmon when he was still alive


message 16: by Maja (new)

Maja (misskilman) | 1 comments I somehow always imagined Roy Dupuis (Michael from the series "Nikita") as Nick.


message 17: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments If we take this back to the original question, do you think this vision of Ms Atwood's is coming true in a sense? What parts do you think?


message 18: by Martina (new)

Martina | 1 comments I read that Ms. Atwood wrote the book using newspaper clippings of events that were happening all over the world, that the setting was a compilation of true stories. So an answer to that question could be yes. However, I vote, and am active in what I care about... so I am not personally fearful Just a touch cautious :-)


message 19: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments I've never heard that, Martina. Thanks for that input. I vote and care about what's going on, as well, but we have to be aware that there is money and power above and beyond our knowledge and control in this world. I believe in conspiracy theories... :]


message 20: by tinabot (new)

tinabot | 5 comments @Elizabeth: I read this book 15 years ago in college, but when I heard about Australia's baby bonus (http://tinyurl.com/25kln2a) a while back, I immediately thought of this book. Borderline prostitution in a way.

@Rohan: At the end of this book, I flipped every extra page left and even stared at the back dumbfounded, wondering where the rest of the story was. I didn't understand it at the time, but in retrospect, maybe the ending gives people the sort of feeling the main character must have felt at that moment, that "what's next?" anxiety, anticipation, and excitement. She just came from a completely controlled and lock-step system. Now she's stepping into the unknown, and her unclear fate leaves us in her shoes. Just a thought.


message 21: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments Tinabot wrote: "@Elizabeth: I read this book 15 years ago in college, but when I heard about Australia's baby bonus (http://tinyurl.com/25kln2a) a while back, I immediately thought of this book. Borderline prostit..."

I don't know of this "baby bonus," and couldn't pull up your link. Can you tell me what it is in Australia?


message 22: by tinabot (new)

tinabot | 5 comments Deborah wrote: "Tinabot wrote: "@Elizabeth: I read this book 15 years ago in college, but when I heard about Australia's baby bonus (http://tinyurl.com/25kln2a) a while back, I immediately thought of this book. Bo..."

Maybe this wikipedia will work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_Bonus

I think it's fine to help parents with child-rearing costs, but I suppose it's based on perspective. My understanding is the reason they do it is because of a waning population and shrinking economy, not out of the goodness of their hearts to help new babies. It's less "let's help nurture the next generation" and more "get cash for getting knocked up and popping out a healthy new productive citizen". And if it's true that it's only offered to mothers of European descent...well, that's a whole other can of beans. O_O


message 23: by Carolyn (last edited Dec 02, 2010 12:39PM) (new)

Carolyn (seeford) Well, Wikipedia says that the original law in 1912 was to people of European descent, but I doubt that that same stipulation is true of the current (2002) Australian system. (I checked the eligibilty site on Australian gov's Tax agency site, and it said nothing about race - only that it was a baby. Also that it will be paid annually until the baby's 5th year - now that's a nice benefit!)


message 24: by tinabot (new)

tinabot | 5 comments @ Carolyn - thanks for catching that, I just grabbed a link and didn't have a chance to look at it thoroughly. I've heard too much about Australia being very racist to Asians so it was easy to scan and overlook the date.

Wow, up until 5th year? I wonder how U.S. welfare babies match up to that.


message 25: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 5 comments The laws regarding Welfare (now called TANF - temporary aid to needy families) changed during the Clinton Administration. Now families can only be on TANF for 2 years or a 5 year lifetime limit. This is a major problem for people in low income jobs who are in a revolving door of dead end jobs, losing them, going back on Welfare or whatever they're calling it at the moment, and getting a job. That's why Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens are so overtaxed. I worked for the Welfare Department in NYC in 1970. Names have changed, but attitudes about poor people haven't changed since the 1600's and the English PoorHouses.


message 26: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments Lisa wrote: "The laws regarding Welfare (now called TANF - temporary aid to needy families) changed during the Clinton Administration. Now families can only be on TANF for 2 years or a 5 year lifetime limit. Th..."

Interesting, Lisa. Does this apply only to those who are actually trying and are continually maintaining some form of jobs, albeit short term? What about those who have no jobs and continue to have no jobs?


message 27: by tinabot (new)

tinabot | 5 comments That is interesting.

I know one family that has been on welfare for almost 30 years since they came to U.S. as refugees. The family had a lot of kids, and some of them are now working/middle class and self-sufficient, but I know one or two of the kids (now adults) were encouraged to just apply for welfare and live their lives like that.

Another immigrant family on welfare I know is a single parent family with multiple kids, but all of those kids are being raised to be extremely academically and socially successful and are well on their way to becoming accomplished professionals when they reach adulthood.

As a taxpayer, I think it's great to support good parents who are doing a wonderful job raising their children. It's a win-win situation for them and for our society as a whole. But I'm not so thrilled about parents who encourage their kids to "live off of welfare" for their entire lives.

Back to the Australia baby deal, I wonder if their policy is only for the poor or if it's just for all babies. So if I was making six figures and had a baby, do I still get those extra baby bucks? Then I could buy an extra designer handbag? O_O

I guess as long as women aren't being forced to procreate and it's still their choice, giving the baby bonus isn't so "handmaidy", but still, it seems like a fine line to walk.


message 28: by Deb (new)

Deb The baby bonus in Australia has a modest income threshold and is not "race tested", it's for all parents including adoptive parents. It has been quite controversial in Australia, but I think was introduced to take account of the cost of raising children, and as an alternative to the more costly tax concessions on child care that were being called for at that time.

I can't see the connection to Handmaid, as there is no compulsion to to have children and it is not only paid to women. I don't think the bonus at $5,000 is any real compensation for the real cost of having children.


message 29: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 31 comments Deb wrote: "The baby bonus in Australia has a modest income threshold and is not "race tested", it's for all parents including adoptive parents. It has been quite controversial in Australia, but I think was i..."

I agree about its not having a real connection to "Handmaid.." I think it's just an interesting topic. It's especially interesting to me because there are so many countries that are being fed birth control by the US...and aren't we hardsell on birth control, ourselves?

Here's something I find eerie and somewhat foreshadowed in "Handmaids.." Out of the 4 of my children who are married and have children, 3 of them have had to have IVFs. Only one of the young women was able to conceive and carry a child naturally. Of all of their friends, I know of less than a handful who were able to have children without IVF. What's this telling us? What's going on? Is/has there been something in the birth control pills that we haven't known about?


message 30: by Deb (new)

Deb It is an interesting fact that so many women spend years trying not to have babies, then years trying desperately to have them. Maybe we are taking birth control for too long, or maybe as a society we are waiting too long before we feel we are "ready" to have children. That old "have it all" concept.
I think we have tried to control reproduction too much and to have children on demand. Our bodies are not really built like that.
There is a feminist issue in here and that's why no one wants to challenge it.
If we did find that the population was diving and no children were being born, or substantially less (like the movie Children of Men) who knows maybe a Handmaid like society could be the result.


message 31: by tinabot (new)

tinabot | 5 comments hm, I agree $5000 definitely doesn't cover the costs of kids, far from it, but I still think giving money to encourage mothers to have babies is a response to population change, an attempt control reproduction, falls in the handmaid category. I don't think it's as extreme as Handmaid or Children of Men, but it's in that direction. Ironic that just to the north, China's trying to stop population growth by heavily taxing having more than one child, a financial punishment for having too many babies.


message 32: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 5 comments If anyone is constantly on Public Aid for years now, they must have some special circumstance that allows them to waive the 5 year limit. Maybe they're actually all on SSI because they have disabilities. Some disabilities can be mental health issues that are invisible. Sometimes if one or two family members are on SSI they get by on it. I usually encourage people to stay on it another year or two if they're managing and return to school to get a marketable skill so that when they get off Welfare, they can stay off it.


message 33: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Broadwell (nikkibroadwell) Lisa wrote: "The laws regarding Welfare (now called TANF - temporary aid to needy families) changed during the Clinton Administration. Now families can only be on TANF for 2 years or a 5 year lifetime limit. Th..."

In this climate that is very sad--I have noticed that many young people(early 20's) have a weird attitude about the poor...


message 34: by Christine (new)

Christine Nikki wrote: "...I have noticed that many young people(early 20's) have a weird attitude about the poor... "

What does "weird attitude" mean?


message 35: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Broadwell (nikkibroadwell) the attitude that the poor are there out of choice instead of circumstances...that helping them is a bad idea...maybe some are but most are not..don't mean to lump everyone in the early twenties into that category! (sorry if I stepped on any toes)


message 36: by Christine (new)

Christine I guess I have to disagree. I have 2 twenty something children, a boy and a girl and they are caring and compassionate young people. They understand first hand what it means to not find work because of a tough economy and not because of any fault of their own. I wish I had more time to find the article I read recently that says that those 20 somethings do more community service work than any other generation before them. Look around, there are young people out there who quietly go about helping those in need without screaming about what they don't have or what might be taken away from them.


message 37: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Broadwell (nikkibroadwell) as I said--I didn't mean to lump everyone into that category--this is only a bit of my own experience...


message 38: by Christine (new)

Christine .....and I am telling about my experience.


message 39: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 5 comments I have noticed what Nikki calls "weird attitudes" among people of all ages. As people experience these hardships in the recession they may develop some compassion. Maybe not. I had many Public Aid clients who would say "We're not like the rest of them. We really need the help." (As if the others did not) Anyone who lives on a budget of $330 a month for a family of three plus Food Stamps and a Medicaid card doesn't have too many choices.


message 40: by Joann (last edited Dec 12, 2010 08:37PM) (new)

Joann (joann_l) | 5 comments Christine, what's your point and where is this article you read recently? I have devoted most of my life to community service and volunteerism and I haven't noticed many 20 somethings involved lately. In paid positions, yes, as volunteers no. What I see is a lot of 60 somethings, but not many 20s unless there is some personal benefit that's coming from it. Besides, what are you disagreeing against?

What I see are many overly sheltered, educated and pampered 20 somethings gravitating to the far right. I see them to avoiding "giving back'' or doing something akin to volunteering. The entire concept seems alien to them, particularly for social good...and no, I don't have any children, because I foresaw what was going to happen.

Every time I've posted on GR I've had a bunch of people jumping on me, so I will ignore it. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing, working on community programs that have a purpose. These discussions rehashing suppositional concepts seem useless to me, a waste of time and somewhat pointless.

For what it's worth (not much), I think THT was a cautionary novel, perhaps even great one, that served as a warning against what Atwood then viewed as an impending theocracy in the U.S. and the connected imperilment of global civil liberties. She was prescient. You can see it now all about you if you look, and don't choose to deceive yourself.


message 41: by Christine (new)

Christine My point was directed at a statement that Nikki had made about 20 somethings having weird attitudes toward the poor. I believe that it is unfair to make generalizations about a group of people by an experience you may have had with a few individuals. I am around 20 somethings all the time because of the age of my children and I have not had the same experiences as you and Nikki. I see young people as compassionate, hard working individuals who have come out of college in a tough economic climate not able to find jobs. They have teaching and nursing degrees and no place to work. I tend to believe that those are young people who want to devote their lives in service of others if given the chance. The article I read was in a newspaper and it was about how the fastest growing group to volunteer is the 20 and 30 somethings. I can't find it. I read the San Francisco Chronicle daily so I am guessing that is where I saw it and its been within the last few months. You are right the largest group of volunteers are those in their 60s but they also have the most time to give, having already retired from a career and in most cases raised a family. All we can do is lead by example, encourage those around you to volunteer no matter how old they are. I do! Compassion starts from within and is easy to pass on.


message 42: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen Joann, I do not see young people opting out of volunteer work. Many have grown up with volunteering as a big part of their education.

I've been a hospice volunteer for 12 years. The last new volunteer training I spoke at was a group of one woman my age and a mix of 10 male and female college students. Some were volunteering in preparation for careers in medicine and cancer research. It was quite inspiring.


message 43: by Christine (new)

Christine Cynthia, thanks for sharing your experiences. I was beginning to feel all alone out here.

Here is a blog post from United We Serve: http://www.serve.gov/stories_detail.a...

Its not the article that I was looking for because its too new but it is another example of high school and college age people doing community service work. In my school district it is a requirement for graduation to do community service. Many work in a local food bank distributing food and meals and after their time requirement has been fulfilled, they stay on. As Cynthia says, it is quite inspiring.


message 44: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen Hey Christine, you're never alone on Goodreads! Thanks for the post. Programs like Teach for America and the Peace Corps can now be VERY choosy, as so many talented college grads apply.


message 45: by Christine (new)

Christine You are right, Cynthia. We are never alone on Goodreads and that's why I love it.


message 46: by Julie (new)

Julie | 4 comments You can't help but think that Handmaid's Tale is becoming reality, evidenced by de-funding of Planned Parenthood in the US, and the plethora of legislation across the nation that seeks to control women's reproductive rights, to change rape victims into "accusers", etc, etc...


message 47: by Janice (new)

Janice Yes, and how frightening for all women.


message 48: by Minnie (new)

Minnie (minnieestelle) | 2 comments Julie wrote: "You can't help but think that Handmaid's Tale is becoming reality, evidenced by de-funding of Planned Parenthood in the US, and the plethora of legislation across the nation that seeks to control w..."

Oh, Julie, I hear you loud and clear. I'm hoping that it's being used as a bargaining tool. Today's political games are evil.


message 49: by Julie (last edited Apr 05, 2011 07:34AM) (new)

Julie | 4 comments Now "uterus" is an unacceptable word to be heard by the ears of delicate Florida legislators. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03...

Since I'm from Indiana and even as we speak the legislators are trying to pass into law some of the most invasive and misogynistic practices re: abortion snd reproductive rights, I don't think I want to wait to find out whether it's just a bargaining tool. I'm really beginning to understand that if you're black, poor, old, or have a uterus, it's not in your personal best interests to have Republicans in power.


message 50: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen Right Julie. Or if you belong to a labor union.


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