The Handmaid's Tale (The Handmaid's Tale, #1) The Handmaid's Tale discussion


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Into the dark or into the light...what do you think?

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message 1: by Cindy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cindy So, what do you suppose happens to our handmaid? Does she go into the light, into the dark, or does it even matter? Is she free regardless?


message 2: by Beth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth Into the light. But no, it doesn't really matter because she is free and that's what every character in the book, even the ones in "power" are striving for.


message 3: by asdfasdf (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:56PM) (new)

asdfasdf Ahhh, this one is on my Christmas list, and I'm phsyced!


message 4: by Reuben (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Reuben Into the grey? I feel she obtained her freedom, but knowledge of her daughter living a separate life and not knowing if her husband lived or died would haunt her. Can she really begin over or go back to her previous existence? I don't think there are any happy endings here. I find myself hoping that she would someday find some level of acceptance, even though I know she is just a fictional character.


Amanda I think you are supposed to feel relieved by the fact that the academic symposium of the last chapter establishes eveything in the book to be part of some backward, repressed, and ancient past. That history changes and goes in cycles. An individual's story matters intensely and yet doesn't matter at all, just fades into history. Which is intellectually comforting and emotionally devastating.... So where does that leave things?


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 08, 2008 08:37AM) (new)

I thought the academic at the end of the book was a strawman sexist for Atwood's point. Sexism is alive and well, even in the innocuous world of the intelligentsia. Right-wing fundamentalists don't have a monopoly on the discounting of women, their stories, and their experiences. The academic is a jerk who laughs at the pain of people from the past.

The main character was tremendously brave, and that story has done more to reignite my interest in feminism and women's rights than anything else.


Rosey "Intellectually comforting and emotionally devastating"

Perfect :)


Toni I think Nick was ok...and it was a true Mayday for her to Europe...at least for her cassette tape documentary, I would wish it for this character...


message 9: by William2 (last edited Jun 23, 2011 09:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

William2 If you like this one, and I certainly did, please also consider another of Ms. Atwood's dytopias, Oryx and Crake. I liked it even more than Handmaid's Tale


message 10: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni I want to say with Amanda that my father always said to me..."would it matter that you lived 100 years from now?" I had to finally agree it doesn't...


message 11: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni he was very hard in the debate issue and always kept me thinking..there would be no historical notes about many of us..etc...


message 12: by Roz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Roz Carter Oryx and Crake is in my top five books of all time. I loved it more than Handmaid's Tale, also, and I really enjoyed Handmaid's Tale.

William wrote: "If you like this one, and I certainly did, please also consider another of Ms. Atwood's dytopias, Oryx and Crake. I liked it even more than Handmaid's Tale"


William2 Rozcar wrote: "Oryx and Crake is in my top five books of all time. I loved it more than Handmaid's Tale, also, and I really enjoyed Handmaid's Tale.

William wrote: "If you like this one, and I certainly did, ple..."


I have always thought of Atwood as a master of the literary dystopia. Don't quote me on this, but it may be the genre she does best.


message 14: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa James Year of the Flood was the first of hers I read. I found it fascinating, so i read Oryx & Crake, since it seemed to be kind of a companion book. I just got done with Handmaid's Tale, since it's on the list of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, which is a group I joined on here, & I was torn by the ending. i want to believe that she escaped into freedom, but agree that knowing that her daughter is still in that society & not knowing what ever happened to Luke, although personally I believe he was long dead, would haunt her for the rest of her life, so in that sense, she could never be really "free".


message 15: by Zen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zen Shane Malcolm wrote: "Wow, you both have me excited. I am a big Atwood fan, having absolutely loved The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye, and Bodily Harm. I have planned to read the rest of her books, but was probably least excited about Oryx and Year of the Flood. Now I'm excited about everything!"
Me too!


message 16: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy OK - this question seems too simple (even to me!!) but wouldn't she have had to escape in order to create the tapes. She certainly couldn't have been making them and maintaining them in captivity...corect? The fact that she stated that "that was the last time she saw Moira" makes me think the tapes were created in later years. This was my first Atwood book. Very interested in thoughts on this. Thanks


Megan Baxter The suggestion in the book, if I remember correctly, is that she makes the tapes in a safehouse at some point, which may mean that the car that pulled up to get her delivered her to the underground - but it is deliberately left vague whether or not from there she was able to make her way out of the country, or if she was caught at some point along the way.


message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy Megan wrote: "The suggestion in the book, if I remember correctly, is that she makes the tapes in a safehouse at some point, which may mean that the car that pulled up to get her delivered her to the underground..."

Aahhh... I see. Thanks Megan.


message 19: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni oooo, i could suggest the glass was half empty here...what if she WAS caught? and had to admit all this on tape for a prisoner record that was stolen and published by a sympathizer?


Lynne I think into the light eventually...does this question distinguish us as optimists or pessimists? As someone else mentioned above, I agree that she would never really be free from her past and her pain. Probably one of the reasons she made the tapes. I hope she found a freedom that she could survive in.
I look forward to reading my next Atwood...Oryx and Crake


Cindy Lee As Robertson Davies would say, the protagonist joins the great swell of the "walking wounded" who hobble through life.


message 22: by Dwight (new)

Dwight Okita I would say we are swimning into the dark. The reason I don't read many dystopian novels is that they seem to revel in numbness and pain and nightmare. It's almost like porn, the yearning for darkness. And for me at least, it doesn't seem like a a future I'd want to read about. I admire Atwood's imagination. In the end dystopia seems as dishonest as utopia. I like reading a future world that is much more in the grey area. Where we at least have a fighting chance to be happy. I'm more of a ETERNAL SUNSHINE or DELIRIUM kind of reading. Let's call it Ambitopia.


Jessica A little off topic, but after reading this book, which I enjoyed a lot, I was thinking about how different societies today had and still have so much restriction on women. Not every woman now has rights and freedoms we have in the U.S. and other places. I found this book as a little less shocking since you just have to go on the Internet now to find sexism and repressive regimes and rules. But, it does a good job in bringing up the point that history does repeat itself and you have to continue to fight for the freedoms that are in place to keep them in place and not go backwards. People will still try to repress things, and progress is only progress as long as freedom stays in place!


Donovan Jessica wrote: "A little off topic, but after reading this book, which I enjoyed a lot, I was thinking about how different societies today had and still have so much restriction on women. Not every woman now has r..."

Good points, Jessica, and I think on point with whether she escaped into the light or went back into darkness. I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 5 years, and the restrictions that The Kingdom as we called it places on women there are almost akin to what Atwood writes about in The Handmaid's Tale. Women are little more than property in some countries (especially Middle Eastern Islamic countries) where they are bartered off as wives to men of varying ages for dowreys . While this is a dystopian society of the future in this book, I think it is just as much a warning on our society of today and the things our governments (and peoples since we support our governments) have become numb to in other countries as the US and others send billions of dollars in foreign aids to these countries without regard for what's going on in them.

As to whether Offred ever really escaped. My thought is that she escaped physically to another country, but emotionally and spiritually, she was still in the darkness that we saw her in throughout the book. She had lost everything and spent her entire life clinging to the probable fiction that Luke was alive...it's possible that her daughter still wasn't alive either. When she is shown the picture of her daughter, she never really acknowledges a recognition of her, so Serena Joy could easily have just been playing a trick on her.


Jayne-Marie Barker Cindy wrote: "So, what do you suppose happens to our handmaid? Does she go into the light, into the dark, or does it even matter? Is she free regardless?"

I'm inclined to think it doesn't matter; the point being that she escapes. A sequel could have answered that but our own imaginations will have to suffice!


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