Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) Review

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Pavlo's review of Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics)


“Margaret Atwood has taken a step into literary...”

Written on: 11/04/2008 by Pavlo (9 reviews written)

Good Points
A pronounced creation which shows a nightmare world to be relevant to modern society.

Bad Points
A very unusual ending which could be disappointing for some but fascinating for others.

General Comments
Margaret Atwood has taken a step into literary creativity by writing a unique novel in a dystopian world. As an A2 student studying the novel in detail, I find I have a real interest in the nightmare world of 'Gilead', perhaps because it is so unexpected and suprising.

The real sense of Atwood's style mirroring 'ecriture feminine' is continually present in the novel, presenting fluidity, emotion, absence of punctuation and a real exploration of female perspective in a deeply misogynisitc society. It is quite freshing to read a personal account which is in no particular order but is separated into distinct sections, for example: "Night", "Waiting room", "Salvaging". The story itself is disturbing. Absence of freedoms, a theocracy based on absurdities of the Old Testament, social status, "adapt or die" is the general concept.

The remarkable description and attention to detail reflects a world where thought and speech is oppressed, rather like '1984' by George Orwell. Those who speak out are publicly hanged, those who do not conform are sent to the 'Colonies' to die slowly. The handmaids themselves are offered little freedoms as baby makers for the state. The compelling personal account will shock you, scare you and invite a sense of helplessness.

Atwood is also a contextual perfectionist, with many issues in the 70s and 80s making clear inroads in this dystopian novel. The main uncomfortable issues centre around the United States of America under the control of a totalitaritarian regime, the control of people and the control of the future.

Atwood, however, has often been criticised for the ending of this novel and the way 'Historical Notes' play a part in describing events for many centuries after the year of the last chapter. However, the choice is entirely the author's.

I enjoy the dystopian theme which scares me a little after each chapter. I recommend this book as a great read - but don't rush it. It requires a lot of attentive reading.

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