When I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, I was getting my Master’s Degree and it was for a class on Body Politics in literature. Then for my second reading, I was working on a PhD and it was for a “Democracy in Literature of the Americas” class. For the first class, Bush was president and for the second time, Obama was brand new to the office.
And now, well, it’s Trump. I picked this one up again to read as a companion piece to my review of Darkness at Noon. If you haven’t read it yet, stop. Go. Read. It.
Seriously, it’s a strong novel. It’s a sad dystopian novel and it’s the worst kind. Worse than 1984. It feels real in a way that novel feels purely metaphorically. Not that that doesn’t have its place.
This novel is not the world Trump will make for us. Instead, it’s the novel that failure to win back state legislatures and Congress will make for us. It’s the novel that when Trump gets impeached or whatever and Mike Pence or any other real Evangelical Christian president (not Ryan and his weird masturbatory Ayn Rand fantasy — I will give Atlas Shrugged a try later this year), but Pence or any of his weird-ass C Street crazies. It’s a violent, sexually violent, repressive society and it’s pseudo-voluntary. Canada is our way out.
It’s temporary. That’s the point of this novel in part. That these things do pass and they don’t last long. It’s likely won out by external or internal democratic impulses, but they just don’t last. But, and this is the other part of it. Too often in temporary violent regimes, we lose sight of just how awful it is to be part of it. In this novel we get a scene in which someone talks about how terrible it is for the transitional generation who wasn’t born into the repression. But that’s just it….we are not there yet.
Anyway, read the novel. Read it again.