Since both of these novels are by Atwood, I immediately began noticing similarities (and more often, differences) between them when I started reading Oryx and Crake. The two greatest similarities seem to be: the meandering narrative style, which is not my personal cup of tea but is certainly better than being dry and dull; and the overall dystopian viewpoints of the books.
the handmaid's tale
I decided that I needed to take one of my freebies for the Handmaid's Tale response. That book just made me angry because of its terrible ending, and potentially frightened, because Gilead resembles what a freakish fundamentalist-Christian America would be at its most extreme. For that reason alone, I actually think that more people should have to read it, and maybe have second thoughts about pushing their morals/beliefs on others. That being said, I also already have midterms beginning. My first exam is tomorrow. Gah....: /
The reader is introduced to THT's patronymic naming system via "newness" in the SF-specific, Huntingtonian sense. In the first section, we are clued in to the fact that something is awry in the book's world, naming-wise, by the sort of ominous catalogue of pedestrian Catholic school-girl-sounding names: "Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June" (4).
In my first post on this novel, I immediately took the side of Luke, against what I perceived to be an unjust representation of men. I seem, as a side effect, to have ignited a flame war between RoseBlack, JackKerouacSucks, and the world. As a result of that war, in addition to the conversation that we had in class, I've taken the time to look closely at my opinions on this novel. As much as it galls me to admit in a public forum, my first impression was quite narrow-minded, and reveals the basic prejudice with which I read feminist literature.
I've found myself often mulling my least favorite character in this novel: Janine. She's the only character in the book for whom the narrator expresses clear contempt. While she may quietly deride or ignore other figures in her life, Janine is the only person clearly within limits. Clearly, Offred is not alone in this. The prevailing sentiment at the Red Center is to "[treat] her the way people used t treat those with no legs who sold pencils on street corners (133)." Clearly, Janine is damaged.
This Margaret Atwood book, having such an intensely gendered agenda, is sometimes confusing to the reader and the author's opinions, as expressed through different characters, seem to mislead the reader as to her own opinions about feminism and a potential utopian order for the world. Specifically, it was difficult to piece together exactly what her mother's position had been in terms of the protests and issues like abortion and pornography, although less so with the pornography as there is the scene where Offred's mother burns it.
Although Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is often described as a work of feminist literature there are no heroic, or even admirable female characters. Instead, the cast of female characters serves as an inventory of all the ways a woman can fail in the context of oppression.
Context: On pgs. 278-280, a Guardian is convicted of rape and subsequently punished. Aunt Lydia says that the "'penalty for rape...is death. Deuteronomy 22:23-29...one woman was pregnant and the baby died'" (179).
Consistent with the other Biblical references in the novel, Deuteronomy 22:23-29 is conveniently condensed to serve the purpose Aunt Lydia wants it to serve. (see below) The convicted Guardian tries to say something, but all he can get out is "'I didn't...'" (279).
Obviously the central issue of The Handmaid's Tale has to do with the role of women in society, especially in the future, considering how much of a stark contrast there is between the world of today and the world of tomorrow portrayed in Atwood's novel. However, to actually quantify and sort out the differences between these two situations takes a bit more thought and depth.
Given that this was the first week the book and the movie could be so directly contrasted, the differences between literary and Hollywood conceptions of what makes a good story really struck me. My generalized conclusion: Hollywood is SO LAME!