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....: /
Margaret Atwood describes a world in Handmaid's Tale that seems to be exaggerated to make a point, and not a realistic possibility. However, a closer look at the psychology behind such cultures reveals it is not as out of the question as we may presume.
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).
While reading The Handmaid's Tale I noticed that there were many instances in which the mentality of the mob took control over that of the individual. This served as another way for the Handmaids to lose some of the individuality to the theocracy of the Republic of Gilead. What struck me most, however, was that there are also references to the mob mentality in the context of the actions of Offred's mother in the time before the republic. That the mob mentality is seen in both eras was quite an interesting similarity.
As we keep discussing Hollywood's destruction of some of the books we've read, I feel like I should mention that there's apparently a movie being made of Neuromancer, starring everyone's favorite emo-Jedi, Hayden Christensen, as Case, and directed by Joseph Kahn, who has offered us such masterpieces as Britney Spears' video for "Toxic". Hooray.
After reading dreamfall17's comments about the loss of hope in Children of Men, I did some thinking about hope in The Handmaid's Tale, and stumbled on the idea -- which I presume to see, at least -- that sex is the predominant source of hope in this novel.
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.
Out of all three of the novels we have read so far, I like The Handmaid's Tale the best. Starship Troopers annoyed me because there were far too many soapbox moments for Heinlein and Neuromancer was difficult for me to follow because of the massive overload of descriptions of new technologies. The Handmaid's Tale is elegant. There is a certain grace to the writing and I feel that the story flows very well as a result of it. The most noteworthy aspect of the novel, at least for me, was how effective of a cautionary tale against blind trust and inaction it was.
I wanted to focus in on this claim that the Handmaid's tale movie 'blunts' the scariness of the book through three particular explorations: the protagonist's access to control and identity, the depiction of the handmaids' indoctrination, and the protagonist's relationship with Nick. (This is in equal parts a response to http://machines.pomona.edu/55-2008/node/92 and http://machines.pomona.edu/55-2008/node/91).
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.