‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Horror! – Far From Fiction In A Modern World?
Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a group of women who are held against their will in an old school building being forcefully trained to be Handmaids to ‘The State’. These Handmaids are violently brainwashed from their past (independent) lives, periodically impregnated by the (male) commander of the house whilst guided by the (usually baron) commander’s wife. Upon (successful) childbirth, these handmaids are to give up their infant to the commander’s wife and never see or raise her own child.
The list deepens as the violent oppression they are forced to endure has even more abusive elements to rip away every part of their past existence of the ‘Real World’ that no longer exists. Their names never to be spoken again and given new ones, these even further belittling names are a combination of a commander’s name. This drives the new fact home even quicker – nothing belongs to these women anymore, not even their vaginas, prefiguring the current US president’s misogyny.
Our protagonist in this adaptation is named ‘Offred’, ‘Of’ meaning she is ‘of’ her particular commander who is called Fred, and so on for the rest of these poor souls. A woman taking on a man’s name actually isn’t that strange after all, hundreds of years have seen women willingly and lovingly taking on the husband’s name after marriage. Even straight after birth a child takes on the father’s name for life, at least until (if female) takes a new name – that is the name of the new father figure – (husband) in her life. Only very recently in society has this practice been questioned with fresh intent, and occasionally a man taking on a woman’s name after marriage. Also the odd occurrence of husband and wive’s keeping their original names, usually for reasons of ‘professional identity’.
The Religious Christian Right Regime play a huge part in these dogmas and values to be thrust upon these unwilling players in an aftermath of a (not too long ago) mostly co-respectful North America.
These Handmaids, albeit dressed in blood red, a flag for womanhood, menstruation, the real present prospect of bloody violence against them for the slightest questioning of their current situation at any moment. A taser used against them for the slightest wrong word, wrong look, as if leading the cattle on the narrow (Old Testament) path.
Psychological abuse, brain eradicating tactics and constant despise are all ‘hand in hand’ for these women to try their hardiest to give the commander their new child. As this is their new and only purpose in life, as any healthy, walking, serving and complying ‘vagina on two legs’ should – according to this monstrosity of a brutal regime demands.
Such is Life, and Such is Expectations in Life as we look on from the (Real World)?