The Handmaid’s Tale – An Unpopular Opinion


12961964Some stories are subtle in the way they present themselves. They weave their messages in to their tales with fine thread, artfully decorating themselves with deep thoughts and revolutionary beliefs. These are the stories that slowly engross the reader into understanding their point of view, dulling all their other senses.

Other stories are blunt. They coil their message into a tightly packed, book shaped brick and proceed to repeatedly hit you over the head with it until you get it.

This was a blunt book. And honestly, there is nothing technically wrong that. Some stories need to be blunt. There is no point in hiding their purpose, no gain in subtlety. Some books need to just plainly tell you the message that they are trying to convey.

My problem is that, to me, this book was just that. A message. A glimpse into a dark, yet possible future. A future torn by war and terrorism. A future where the rights of women have been stolen from them. Where they are nothing more than wives, servants (the Marthas), sex toys (the Jezebels), prison guards to other women (the Aunts), widows, Unwomen (who are disposable to the society, being sent to clean up radioactive waste), and walking , breathing wombs no better than reproductive slaves (the Handmaids).

Imagine a future where choice is taken. Where the word ‘freedom’, the very foundation of the country in which we live, is outlawed. Where women are property, expendable, and mistreated. Where they are deprived the rights to their bodies, to their voices, to their minds. They cannot be educated, own money, work, or read. They are nothing. Less than nothing.

This is the future that the story presents. Nothing less or more. No real plot, no real story. A message. A deep, and necessary one to be sure, but a message none the less.

This book is a classic, a loved novel that has withstood the test of time. And frankly, I was extremely bored while reading it. Only near the end did I truly get into the story, and not enough that I was fully engrossed.

I wanted to love this novel. I wanted it to consume my senses, to be enthralled. I wanted this to be my next 1984, a book I love with all my heart. Sadly, it wasn’t. It didn’t even come close.

The world building is exceptional. The writing, extremely beautiful and fluid. The issues that were brought up were thought out and brilliant. The characters could have all been ran over and I would not have cared. How can the narrator, Offred, be so personal, and yet have no personality?  She is the vessel through which Atwood decided to tell her story, barely a real person at all. She has no true wants or desire. She says she does, but I don’t buy it. The plot doesn’t consist of her rebelling, or planning, or anything. It’s just her being. She is a passive character in all she does, being pushed and pulled in which ever direction other’s decide to make her go. This makes the plot entirely uneventful. The most interesting character was Moira, Offred’s best friend, who only appears at small parts through the novel. Honestly, every character is more interesting that Offred.

Another problem that I had with the story was the feasibility of it. Are the events shown in this novel possible? Yes. Are they probably? Quite likely. Would they happen in 8 or so years? No.

An entire society doesn’t go from point A, to point W, in 8 years. And yes, point W, because this was far to extreme for point B. In one day women lose all their rights, and in 8 years time there is no government, all religions expect a very twisted version of the Christian faith remain, and we are all complacent slaves? No. That wouldn’t happen. Not in this country, and not without a fight.  At least not now in 2017. I don’t know how things were back in the 80’s.

This is a well loved book, and if you loved it, then I am glad. I truly hope you did. I did not. I acknowledge it’s value and it’s message, but it took far too much effort to get through it.

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10 thoughts on “The Handmaid’s Tale – An Unpopular Opinion

    1. There are several women in the book that aren’t passive. Several women that rebel or that at least do something. What bothered me about Offred is that at points she didn’t seem like a real character. She, as I said, seemed more like the window through which we were meant to see this world and I didn’t like that. But it’s a well loved book. You might think differently than I if you read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I didn’t quite enjoy this book either. Like you said, there wasn’t much story to it and Offred definitely wasn’t the most “fun” or interesting character to read about. I understand and appreciate the message behind the book, but I never really connected to the characters or the story, which would’ve carried the message a lot better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OH GOSH I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE! (okay, I knew I wasn’t, cos I know some other people that didn’t like this book). But yes, this book is a pretty blunt instrument to make the point it’s trying to make. I didn’t believe the story in this book at all- I’m with you in that I don’t think it could happen- not like how it happened in the book. What also got to me is that there are some pretty harrowing examples from real life that she could have drawn on- but instead she went for the absurd. So yeah, I’ve probably added a few more unpopular opinions into the mix, but I was not a fan of this book either. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It always feel better when you see people that share your opinion, especially on such well loved classic novels. I wish I had been able to connect to the characters more. I might have liked it better. I still really want to watch the TV show, though. It looks pretty good and I’ve only heard good things about it!

      Liked by 1 person

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