My Book World
With a new introduction by the author.
New York: Anchor, 2017.
I suppose I always felt this book, originally published in 1986, was a woman’s book—chick lit—but after viewing the MGM/Hulu production of Atwood’s novel, I believe I was wrong. A dystopian world in which women are nothing more than baby makers and terribly devalued if they cannot deliver is not a world any of us want to live in. Such a world is also one in which all human beings are devalued, consigned to rigid gender and social roles. Atwood herself may articulate the novel’s greatest value in her new introduction:
“But there’s a literary form I haven’t mentioned yet: the literature of witness. Offred records her story as best she can; then she hides it, trusting that it may be discovered later, by someone who is free to understand it and share it. This is an act of hope: every recorded story implies a future reader. Robinson Crusoe keeps a journal. So did Samuel Pepys, in which he chronicled the Great Fire of London. So did many who lived during the Black Death, although their accounts often stop abruptly. So did Roméo Dallaire, who chronicled both the Rwandan genocide and the world’s indifference to it. So did Anne Frank, hidden in her secret annex” (xviii).
Atwood concludes her remarks with the following statement:
“In the wake of the recent American election, fears and anxieties proliferate. Basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades and indeed the past centuries. In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere—many, I would guess—are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can.
Will their message be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall?
Let us hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust it will not” (xix).
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-20 Florida