The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

eBook - 2010
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In this Orwellian dramatization, religion becomes a tool of repression and social control to force women into the roles of stay-at-home wives, domestic staff, prostitutes, or surrogate mothers. They have no rights to their bodies or property and are completely dependent upon men. Those women who have had at least one child find themselves forced into the role of breeding machine, producing children for childless couples. References to 20th-century issues abound, including Agent Orange, abortion, women's rights, and escape attempts to Canada.
Publisher: Toronto : Emblem, 2010
ISBN: 9781551994963
1551994968
Branch Call Number: e-book
Alternative Title: Library2Go

Opinion

From Library Staff

2008 — In Toronto, a parent formally complained about the use of this dystopian novel in a Grade 12 English class at Lawrence Park Collegiate. The parent said that the novel’s “profane language,” anti-Christian overtones, “violence” and “sexual degradation” probably violated the district school p... Read More »

In a not-too-distant future, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the USA. Our heroine Offred is a handmaid assigned to an elite couple who is unable to conceive a child. She is treated as a slave, and is only valued if she can produce a child for the Commander. When Offred gets ... Read More »

The Handmaid’s Tale is a masterful dystopian speculative fiction fable set in the near future. A horrifying and surprising tale of female subjection and rebellion.


From the critics


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Sean_Exon
Sep 16, 2020

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel about a totalitarian patriarchal society in Cambridge, Massachusetts in The Republic of Gilead formerly known as the United States. In Gilead, women were stripped of all rights. Their sole purpose was reproduction. High ranking official couples that could not have children were assigned handmaids to conceive with the husbands so that the couple could have children. This novel is about Offred, short for Property of Fred, her life as a handmaid for Commander Fred and his wife. Before she was a handmaid, she, her husband, and their young daughter were caught escaping to Canada. Her husband was captured and never heard from again. Her young daughter was taken away by another woman. Offred was forced to become a handmaid. She often recalled the freedom she enjoyed before Gilead, her best friend in college and her family. It was a stark contrast from the totalitarian government she lived now.

This is a powerful book about human rights or lack thereof under a totalitarian government. Even high ranking officials like Commander Fred and his wife who supported the government seemed to seek freedom. The commander kept a private library while books were outlawed. His wife, a gospel singer before Gilead banned music, often hummed a melody when she thought no one was listening. No one could trust a neighbor or a friend because that person could be a spy for the government. It is disheartening that totalitarian government still exists and that there are many people who still live in an oppressed society today.

a
Anirudh_Kannan
Aug 21, 2020

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel that follows a totalitarian state where women are deprived of all of their rights (read, write, own property or handle money). The main character, Offred, is one of the only remaining fertile women. Therefore she is forcibly assigned to produce children for the "Commanders" or the ruling class of men. The rest of the women are classed socially and are forced to follow a strict dress code.

The Handmaid's tale explores themes of subjugated women, and the various means by which women resist and attempt to gain independence. However, due to the explicit sexual content, this book is not suitable for people under the age of 15.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Aug 05, 2020

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a funny, unexpected and horrifying story based on a female servant in the Republic of Gilead, Offred. Since this novel was so frightening and powering at the same time, it emotionally drained me. The handmaids present in this story have no free will, nor do they have any individualism, as if they are all treated as simple baby producing machines. Atwood does a great job of portraying women without power, and I feel this is still a topic that people need to educate themselves on. Even in this generation, I don’t quite understand why individuals find it so hard to normalize women in position of power. The Handmaid’s Tale shows that if we were to follow the chauvinist views of the old testament with fierce intensity, it would be sure that women would have no power at all. These views would be reinforced by complete cultural destruction, as well as lack of any form of self-expression. In this story, women are not allowed to read or write, not being able to speak their minds. Women are controlled in a way where they are forced to forget their pasts and put an end to any sense of personal affection. It was like an election, where sexism won, and women lost. It was disturbing to read about all the experiences Offred had to encounter, which is what made the novel so perceptive, provoking and dire. I would encourage anyone to give this one a read because you will be impressed! 4.5/5 stars
@Bookland of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

After continual recommendation, I decided to read Margaret Atwood’s famed The Handmaid’s Tale, a modern dystopian novel that simulates a society where women especially are categorized into separate roles, all of which are subservient to men. Offred is a 33-year-old woman who was once married with a 5-year-old child before the totalitarian government was formed, known as the Republic of Gilead. Offred is a Handmaid, a role that deems her a state-approved sex slave to an important man that she is assigned to. Her job is to act as a surrogate of sorts and conceive a child, as births rates have declined in Gilead. Told through the perspective of Offred, readers become familiar with the constructs of Gilead and the experiences of Offred. The Handmaid’s Tale is different from usual dystopian novels as the main character’s ulterior motive is not to escape or find a way to defy the rules of her government as an act of rebellion. The Handmaid’s Tale is an individual story of Offred, no one else, and her personal perception of the society. Atwood’s novel is a refreshing change from the monotonous sci-fi and fantasy books that flood the shelves. I give this book a 3.5/5 star rating and recommend it to readers ages 15+ as there are a lot of sexual descriptions and references.
@ilovefood of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

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mnack_0
Jul 15, 2020

I read this book mainly because I had heard so much hoopla about the TV series (which I never saw). I suspect this is one of those instances where the TV adaptation - due to a talented team of writers, actors, producers, etc.. - is better than the book. Atwood makes an interesting case for how it can happen that a traumatized - apathetic? - people allow their government to take away their freedoms. Particularly pertinent in today's post-911 (and now COVID-19!) environment. Interesting that Hollywood waited over 30 years to adapt it to the big screen. Probably a story in itself.

s
sadie5_88
Jun 27, 2020

Did not read on tv

d
dirtbag
May 20, 2020

I am probably not the best person to review this book. I have not liked anything that Atwood has written since the Edible Woman. Back then she had a sense of humor.

b
briannabooks123
Mar 27, 2020

This book is unique and is certainly one that even though I didn't enjoy it, it has left a mark on me. It is about a female living in a religious, totalitarian society where women are oppressed, that is the simplest summary I can give without giving too much away. I found that the book was quite dry and boring at times and there was very few exciting portions. I also really didn't like the protagonist, I'm sure Atwood tried to write her in a way to evoke sympathy from the reader, but I just couldn't sympathize. A friend of mine warned me that the ending of the book is very odd, but what I found personally is that the ending returned the book to my graces.

I also think one of the things that disappointed me about this book is that it is often compared to George Orwell's 1984, which caused me to expect too much from it. I also really disliked Atwood's style of writing, I found it hard to get through.

I would give this book a 2/5 rating.

s
SusanJFerguson
Mar 24, 2020

Book Club

m
MEILEEANDERSON
Mar 11, 2020

I read this book for category 24 "a book with a large cast of characters" for the 2020 Extreme Reading Challenge. I accidentally read Margaret Atwood's books out of order. I read The Testaments first, I'm glad I went back and read The Handmaid's Tale because it helped explain some things but still overall I didn't love it. My mind couldn't want to (didn't want to) wrap itself around such a dystopian future in which women had no rights. I really wrestled with this story. After thinking it over I felt convicted about how I take my rights foregranted in comparison to some of the situations women deal with in other countries.

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apalmer994
Feb 21, 2020

The show was so good, the book was not. I only gave it the stars I did because the premise was good enough to churn out a good show. This book was a drag to get through. Nothing really added to the plot and when something finally exciting happens Boom! It’s the end of the book.

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Quotes

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r
reeread
Oct 01, 2018

“My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter.”

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

As long as we do this, butter our skin to keep it soft, we can believe that we will some day get out,
that we will be touched again, in love or desire. We have ceremonies of our own, private ones.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

There can be alliances even in such places, even under such circumstances. This is something you can depend upon: there will always be alliances of one kind of another.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

It is the hardest for you. We know the sacrifices you are being expected to make. It is hard when men revile you. For the ones who come after you, it will be easier. They will accept their duties with willing hearts. She did not say: Because they will have no memories, of any other way. She said: Because they won't want things they can't have.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

What he's telling us, his level smile implies, is for our own good. Everything will be all right soon.
I promise. There will be peace. You must trust. You must go to sleep, like good children.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.

PimaLib_JB Oct 28, 2014

“There is more than one kind of freedom," said Aunt Lydia. "Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.”

PimaLib_JB Oct 28, 2014

“There is more than one kind of freedom," said Aunt Lydia. "Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.”

m
MissSherbetXO
Jul 11, 2014

I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to it, this wanting.

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Age Suitability

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s
Sean_Exon
Sep 16, 2020

Sean_Exon thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

a
Anirudh_Kannan
Aug 21, 2020

Anirudh_Kannan thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

s
steven_hahn
Jun 01, 2018

steven_hahn thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

b
blue_cat_16312
May 18, 2018

blue_cat_16312 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

jmli thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

j
jjwoodard
Jun 01, 2017

jjwoodard thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

e
eparti
Mar 29, 2015

eparti thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

EuSei Jan 25, 2013

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

s
Saralovebaig
Nov 28, 2012

Saralovebaig thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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Notices

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c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Hangings and group lynching

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Sexual Content: Explicit sexual scenes

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Violence: group mob attack section

Summary

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c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Offred lives in a society where women are valued purely for their ability to reproduce because of rampant bareness caused by radioactive materials. Offred is one of the handmaids who are forced to procreate under the direct supervision of their commanding 'wives'. Offred had a family and a child of her own which were taken from her when she was forced to become property. All aspects of her life are controlled on pain of death. Things start to spiral downward when her Commander (baby daddy) starts speaking to her outside of the prearranged time he promises her glimpses of her old life. She is also forced into a sexual encounter with one of the servant men after her commanding wife feels the commander is incapable of getting her pregnant. She continues on this relationship even though she is afraid of being found out. The book ends rather abruptly when Offred is taken away in a van which is known to dispose of rebellious handmaids. It is implied that her lover helps her escape although it is ambiguous.

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