Book #02. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I have already experienced in Pan’s Labyrinth what it is like to be in a society that has forbidden individuals to express his/her own feelings. Atwood narrates the tense atmosphere of a totalitarian society through the perspective of the most vulnerable individual in the sociopolitical ladder, that is, a handmaid. There is no way Offred could clearly comprehend exactly *why* her former life with her own family has been abandoned. The big worlds of wars and politics are too beyond of a woman’s perspective. Her own contained sentiments alone provide a window to the reality that denies love, comfort, and joy.

In Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro also borrows the eyes of a vulnerable individual (a child) in order to accurately depict the sense of horror under the fascist regime. Whereas Del Toro interacts the ruthless political scenes of the post-Spanish Civil War (i.e. the ongoing battle between the Fascists and Republicans) with the repressed interiority of the protagonist (Ofelia’s  fairy tales) throughout the narrative, Atwood marginalizes the factualities of Offred’s ‘real world (i.e. Gilead)’ into the ‘Historical Notes’ at the end of the story. There is little in the book that far escapes the parameters of the lonely woman trapped in the routines of a handmaid. Atwood depicts the darkness of a totalitarian society by magnifying the feebleness of female emotions.

Would the future be so grim? I thought it is only about what happened in the past, like in Fascist Spain or Nazi Germany in the early 20th century. Are people in 2011 still imagining those totalitarian fantasies to become true? Major dystopian novels such as 1984 or Brave New World were written in a period we left behind. I daresay such novels really don’t tell about the ‘future’ as much as the ‘present,’ since they are largely reflective of what was going on in that era which it was written. Had a futuristic novel been written these days, I hope it is a whole lot different from those classics. I wish it will be a lot happier…. 😦


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