Some 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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