Friday, October 5, 2012

Thoughts on: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood

*spoiler alert*

There have been a slew of dystopian novels released over the past few years, largely in the wake of successful young adult series such as the Hunger Games and Noughts and Crosses.  So I thought it would be interesting to go back and read some earlier dystopian novels.  One of the most famous of these is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood.
This novel was a real page-turner.  The tension is palpable, and it is really well written. 
I liked the way that some of the main characters, such as Nick and Cora were really ambiguously portrayed.  I wasn’t sure whether I liked them or not, and I think that that made the story much more realistic.  In a way, it mimics the way that people in Gilead must have felt; they were could never be sure whether they liked or trusted people, because anyone could be an Eye.
What also fascinated me was the way that in some situations, various individuals tried to construe certain elements of the society as being matriarchal and freeing for women, when in fact it clearly was not.
The bit that let me down was the ending.  Like so many dystopian stories, the narrative ends on an ambiguous note.  We are uncertain as to whether she is lead to safety or too her doom.
            And then there is a historical note at the end that tells us that she does.  The historical note tries to create another, different, ambiguous ending, but frankly, it just doesn’t have the same potency.