The Handmaid’s Tale
Why The Handmaid’s Tale and Mt. Mansfield
I had wanted to include The Handmaid’s Tale if I had summited Mt. Rundle in Canada because Margaret Atwood is such a well known Canadian writer. Luckily, I had a second chance. Mt. Mansfield is in Vermont and is located fairly close to Atwood’s home town of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. The Handmaid’s Tale is by far my favorite Atwood novel. I really enjoy well-done, smart dystopian and apocalyptic novels. This book explores the deep themes of human identity, religious intolerance and civil rights abuses that have plagued society for centuries. In particular, it explores the rights of women and a woman’s right to own her own reproductive rights.
More About The Handmaid’s Tale
The dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) is a work of speculative fiction by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future North America, in a totalitarian Christian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).
The Handmaid’s Tale won the 1985 Governor General’s Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987; it was also nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award. It has been adapted for the cinema, radio, opera, and stage. The Handmaid’s Tale has never gone out of print since its first publication in 1985.
The novel is set in the Harvard Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts.In Gilead, the bodies of women are politicized and controlled. The North American population is falling as more men and women become infertile (though in Gilead, legally, it is only women who can be the cause of infertility). Gilead’s treatment of women is based upon a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, meaning that women are the property of and subordinate to their husband, father, or head of household. They are not allowed to do anything that would grant them any power independent of this system. They are not allowed to vote, hold a job, read, possess money, or own anything, among many other restrictions. Handmaids, being not allowed to wed, are given two-year assignments with a commander, and lose their own name: they are called “Of [their Commander’s first name], such as the novel’s heroine, known only as Offred.
Margaret Eleanor Atwood, CC OOnt FRSC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. She is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award several times, winning twice. In 2001, she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. She is also a founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to encourage Canada’s writing community. Among innumerable contributions to Canadian literature, she was a founding trustee of the Griffin Poetry Prize.