“Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum”
In what could be one of the most shocking and unforgettable books I’ve ever read, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is classic but at the same time, it’s also timely. It has one of the most terrifying and one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read and it makes you imagine what would happen if the plot in the book would actually come true? This book is a story of women’s struggles in a theocratic military dictatorship called The Republic of Gilead. Written in the first person, we see the mindset of a woman narrating and calling herself Offred, but that is not her real name. She’s just named after her Commander Fred, where she lives with and his wife Serena Joy. She’s some kind of their temporary property, thus calling her “Of Fred”. Offred has a role to fulfill, she’s what their society would call, a Handmaid. Handmaids are women of childbearing age, fertile and had committed gender and social crimes according to Gilead’s law. They’re dressed in almost all red with white-winged hats and they’re assigned to a commander and his wife’s household to bear them a child. That’s because the population of the Republic of Gilead is dwindling and they badly need new births.
Offred is constantly having flashbacks of her world “before” and her world “now”. You see, she once lived a normal life, something close to what we have now, and she once had a family and friends. Life is definitely difficult for her new reality, but it’s not just her. The same is true with all the women around her. In the Republic of Gilead, women are classified as wives, aunts, Marthas, handmaids, econowives, etc. Unfortunately, they all don’t seem to get along and that their government is seriously watching their back. It’s a bleak bleak world, one that you’d never want to happen to yourself or even to your enemy. Offred’s ordeal of giving her commander and his wife a child is something that will shock you, will make you contemplate, and will make you sad. The world of Offred is never easy, but hers is a story of survival and hope even in the faintest way possible.
A lot of people sort of equate the book with feminism, however, I think there is actually a very subtle hint of feminism in it, and the main character Offred didn’t seem to be the type to show it much. What she is in the book is a survivalist and she’s shown endurance despite the world she’s in. Her prevailing attitude is what probably made her a feminist of some sort. She’s indeed an interesting character because she shows obedience and submissiveness on the outside while she’s feisty inside. She remained observant of her new environment without being compromised, and while she didn’t show much defiance in the book, she definitely did in the TV series. Yes, this is the book that finally made me sign up to Hulu and let me tell you, I didn’t regret it. I wasn’t really into Hulu before because I already have Netflix, but hey Hulu’s great, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Hulu is even greater. The series is almost true to the book with a few add-ons and Elisabeth Moss fits the bill as Offred. There are more themes of feminism in the series, and the whole plot seems more shocking and scary. The cinematography is great and the acting is perfect. Serena Joy (Commander Fred’s wife) is being portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski which seems quite a bit young for the role, but she did a phenomenal job. Overall, I love the series a lot even though at times it’s kind of hard to watch. The story is never for the faint of heart, I tell you.
The audiobook is also great to listen to. it’s narrated by Homeland’s Claire Danes and she sounds very convincing in her narrations, bringing to life Offred’s struggle and personality. Another best part of the book is towards the end where you start to understand the real story behind Gilead and what might have happened to Offred. Hmmm, a cliffhanger eh? The Handmaid’s Tale is a speculative dystopian novel that was once controversial but has been awarded multiple times. The book will make you think and wonder “What would happen if one day you lose your basic right as a woman or even as a human being?” What would you do? Would you conform? Or would you not let the bastards grind you down?
The Handmaid’s Tale Book by Margaret Atwood is available in Amazon.com
The Audiobook is available in Audible.com
While the TV series is available in Hulu.com
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