Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel of speculative fiction that depicts an oppressive parallel to American society called Gilead – in which women have no rights and own nothing. Women are instead given roles; Wives, Handmaids, Marthas (domestic servants) and Aunts.
The story itself follows Offred – not her real name but rather used to represent her as The Commander (Fred’s) Possession. Offred, as a fertile woman belongs to the Handmaid class and is forced to serve the elite by providing them with children. The book begins with Offred’s training in the ‘Red Room’, overseen by the Aunts and then leaps forward to her service to The Commander. Throughout the book we are then given windows into the past that begin to explain how society has changed so dramatically and what happened to Offred before she became a Handmaid. Whilst many of Gilead’s society have accepted this new way of life some are quietly rebelling against the rules – creating a great plotline.
Despite being published over 30 years ago Atwood’s ideas about the parallel past and future still seem to be extremely relevant, particularly in some places in the world. For a well written and interesting novel that truly makes you think, look no further than Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.