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Fancasting: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

October 02, 2013

In the Republic of Gilead  Offred is a Handmaid (sexual slave). She's forced to live with a couple and pray the Commander gets her pregnant. In this new disturbing life she dreams of her past and family.

In Atwood's world your only worth is if you can make babies. You're dwindled into a life of sexual slavery. Give one couple a baby, go onto the new pair and give them a baby - until your life and body is not valued anymore. The new America (Republic of Gilead) is watching your every move.

Among this depraved overruling of womanhood lurks a sea of individuals cast aside. Unwoman who are brutal reminders of a time since passed; feminists, widows, nuns, lesbians, etc. who are exiled to the colonies. Econowives have married low-ranking men who take care of all household and child bearing duties. Marthas are older infertile woman who serve in a couple's households for responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning. Aunts trained and sentitized prospective Handmaid's about the older social laws of gender appropriateness. Wives, with their Commander husbands, are social and professionally successfully couples who take in Handmaids for childbearing.

Dream Casting:
Rebecca Hall as Offred
Meryl Streep as Serena Joy
Richard Gere as Commander
Evan Rachel Wood as Moira
Amanda Seyfried as Ofcharles
Josh Lucas as Luke

You have no identity in Atwood's world, even if you are a Handmaid. You might be "valuable enough" to have a child but the former world of leisure feels taken for granted. Lingerie, magazines, books, jobs, marriages and children are banned. Memories of wearing shorts, smoking cigarettes, falling in love are ghosts of your former life.

Through Offred's memories of the brutal brainwashing process in conception-like centers - where one girl was convinced into believing she earned being raped by the way she dressed and videos of women being torn open to are played daily - you feel the strangling of your own voice for not just your body, but dreams, goals, personality. Did I say this book was pretty brutal to read? I once wonder how contemporary it is now and when it was first released in 1985.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the unique outlook Offred gives to us and the disturbing world she lives in, I felt Atwood's third act a bit disappointing. Offred is offered several ways "out", all not more easy choices than just to get pregnant by the Commander.

Loopholes about many remaining characters have loose ends. Such as Janine (a fellow Handmaid) who gradually loses her mind to her surroundings and Moira (a friend) who is an outspoken warrior against the government. The conflict and the harsh reality of the world dissipates after a while. It's hard to grasp an understanding about the rest of the world when there seems to be resistance members all over the place who just can't take down the Eyes (government).

When gleaming at the current world as it is - right now - you can see the different voices emanate from the book. Magazines that tell you how to dress, use your body to get a man or keep a man, the worth of a relationship vs the suffering (or fun) of being single, government exercising rights on how much you earn as a leader of a household, in the workplace, how your body should perform for reproduction. You almost don't wonder how much longer the world of Republic of Gilead is around the corner because some of its signs are out there.

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