Sunday, February 12, 2006

17. "The Handmaid's Tale" ~ Margaret Atwood

This is not the first reading, nor will it be the last. But The Handmaid's Tale is one of those books that ages well, like blue jeans or Mary Tyler Moore.

Offred lives in a time when procreation is left to the handmaids (handmaidens?). Commanders are given government issued women to impregnate - once per month, upon the Wife's lap. See the Biblical symbolism. Oh, but we've only scratched the surface.

Atwood has said that this book is her representation of what would happen to society when (not if) the population begins to decrease due to all of the poisons in the air, water, and earth, in addition to the strict regiment of the conservative Christian coalition.

With those ideas in mind, each time I read this novel, I uncover more or catch another symbol that I missed the first time. For example, the women who cook and clean are called the Marthas. After re-reading the Bible, I learned that Jesus spoke to Martha and Mary, but Mary just lazed around and listened to him while Martha cleaned his feet and cooked the supper. Later, Jesus gave his blessing to Mary... because she listened. Fascinating and demonstrates the intricacy of this novel.

The end always messes with my head a bit too much. I'm perfectly happy trying to unearth secrets of language and meaning, but in the end, don't we all want some concrete answers?

4.8 out of 5.0 Astorias.

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