Margaret Atwood Handmaid Tale Essay

People—not only women—have sent me photographs of their bodies with phrases from being the most frequent.

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I chronicle the finding of puffballs, always a source of glee; dinner parties, with lists of those who attended and what was cooked; illnesses, my own and those of others; and the deaths of friends. There are page counts; I had a habit of writing down the pages completed as a way of urging myself on.

But there are no reflections at all about the actual composition or subject matter of the book itself.

It might use the name of democracy as an excuse for abolishing liberal democracy: that’s not out of the question, though I didn’t consider it possible in 1985.

Nations never build apparently radical forms of government on foundations that aren’t there already; thus China replaced a state bureaucracy with a similar state bureaucracy under a different name, the USSR replaced the dreaded imperial secret police with an even more dreaded secret police, and so forth.

On June 10 there is a cryptic entry: “Finished editing but there is no journal commentary on these by me.

On November 16 I find another writerly whine: “I feel sucked hollow.” To which I added: “But functional.” The book came out in the UK in February of 1986, and in the United States at the same time.These are questions with which human beings have busied themselves for a long time.There would be resistance to such a regime, and an underground, and even an underground railroad.But Gilead is the usual kind of dictatorship: shaped like a pyramid, with the powerful of both sexes at the apex, the men generally outranking the women at the same level; then descending levels of power and status with men and women in each, all the way down to the bottom, where the unmarried men must serve in the ranks before being awarded an Econowife.The Handmaids themselves are a pariah caste within the pyramid: treasured for what they may be able to provide—their fertility—but untouchables otherwise.In a feminist dystopia pure and simple, all of the men would have greater rights than all of the women.It would be two-layered in structure: top layer men, bottom layer women.The group-activated hangings, the tearing apart of human beings, the clothing specific to castes and classes, the forced childbearing and the appropriation of the results, the children stolen by regimes and placed for upbringing with high-ranking officials, the forbidding of literacy, the denial of property rights—all had precedents, and many of these were to be found, not in other cultures and religions, but within Western society, and within the “Christian” tradition itself.(I enclose “Christian” in quotation marks, since I believe that much of the Church’s behavior and doctrine during its two-millennia-long existence as a social and political organization would have been abhorrent to the person after whom it is named.) has often been called a “feminist dystopia,” but that term is not strictly accurate.In the UK, which had had its Oliver Cromwell moment some centuries ago and was in no mood to repeat it, the reaction was along the lines of, has several.For instance: if you wanted to seize power in the United States, abolish liberal democracy, and set up a dictatorship, how would you go about it? It would not resemble any form of communism or socialism: those would be too unpopular.

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