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The handmaid's tale / Margaret Atwood.

By: Atwood, Margaret, 1939-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London : Vintage Books, 1996Copyright date: ©1985Description: 324 pages ; 20 cm.ISBN: 9780099740919 (paperback).Subject(s): Women -- Fiction | Man-woman relationships -- Fiction | Misogyny -- Fiction | Dystopias -- FictionDDC classification: 813.54 Summary: The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.
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Item type Current location Collection Call number Status Date due Barcode Item reserves
Default Sunshine Library (DIY)
Fiction ATWO Issued 11/11/2019 IA0904836
Default Deer Park Library
Fiction ATWO Issued 02/11/2019 IA0616968
Default Sydenham Library
Fiction ATWO On reserve IA0616951 1
Default Sunshine Library
Large Print Fiction LP ATWO Issued 09/11/2019 IA1458426
Total reserves: 6

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

from the Introduction In the spring of 1984 I began to write a novel that was not initially called  The Handmaid's Tale . I wrote in long hand, mostly on yellow legal notepads, then transcribed my almost illegible scrawlings using a huge German-keyboard manual typewriter that I'd rented.   The keyboard was German because I was living in West Berlin, which was still encircled by the Berlin Wall: the Soviet empire was still strongly in place and was not to crumble for another five years. Every Sunday the East German air force made sonic booms to remind us of how close they were. During my visits to several countries behind the Iron Curtain--Czechoslovakia, East Germany--I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing. So did the repurposed buildings.  This used to belong to . . . But then they disappeared.  I heard such stories many times.   Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. Change could also be as fast as lightning.  It can't happen here  could not be depended on: anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.   By 1984, I'd been avoiding my novel for a year or two. It seemed to me a risky venture. I'd read extensively in science fiction, speculative fiction, utopias and dystopias ever since my high school years in the 1950s, but I'd never written such a book. Was I up to it? The form was strewn with pitfalls, among them a tendency to sermonize, a veering into allegory, and a lack of plausibility. If I was to create an imaginary garden, I wanted the toads in it to be real. One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the "nightmare" of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the devil.   Back in 1984, the main premise seemed--even to me--fairly outrageous. Would I be able to persuade readers that the United States of America had suffered a coup that had transformed an erstwhile liberal democracy into a literal-minded theocratic dictatorship? In the book, the Constitution and Congress are no longer: the Republic of Gilead is built on a foundation of the seventeenth-century Puritan roots that have always lain beneath the modern-day America we thought we knew.   The immediate location of the book is Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University, now a leading liberal educational institution but once a Puritan theological seminary. The Secret Service of Gilead is located in the Widener Library, where I had spent many hours in the stacks, researching my New England ancestors as well as the Salem witchcraft trials. Would some people be affronted by the use of the Harvard wall as a display area for the bodies of the executed? (They were.)   In the novel, the population is shrinking due to a toxic environment, and the ability to have viable babies is at a premium. (In today's real world, studies in China are now showing a sharp fertility decline in Chinese men.) Under totalitarianisms--or indeed in any sharply hierarchical society--the ruling class monopolizes valuable things, so the elite of the regime arrange to have fertile females assigned to them as Handmaids. The biblical precedent is the story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah, and their two handmaids. One man, four women, twelve sons--but the handmaids could not claim the sons. They belonged to the respective wives.   And so the tale unfolds. Excerpted from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

In a startling departure from her previous novels ( Lady Oracle , Surfacing ), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the ``morally fit'' Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: ``of Fred''), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries. BOMC featured alternate. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


One of Canada's outstanding authors (an old poem of hers reads, ``You fit into me/ like a hook into an eye/ a fish hook/ an open eye'') has written a novel to rival Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four. It is the US nearly a century from now, its government a repressive theocracy where women are nothing and everything. They are enslaved, so this is an important feminist novel; but they serve an elderly commander whose sole function is to mechanically impregnate them, like some slave insect that quickens a queen bee. The men are few, the women many. The narrator is one of these queen bees, Offred-she belongs to Fred-and she pieces her story together slowly and with such matter-of-fact and nightmarish credibility that an entire society is realized, a horror world so muffled and enclosed that when one of the women says an innocent and anachronistic 20th-century ``hello'' to another, a chill races down the reader's spine. Although its contents are sometimes sensationalist, it is a magnificently crafted and understated novel. Unreservedly recommended.-P. Cousins, Schenectady County Community College

Booklist Review

Offred, a handmaid living in a near-future time, endures life in a society in which women able to bear children are used for procreation. (D 1 85 Adult Upfront)

Kirkus Book Review

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive ""monotheocracy"" calling itself the Republic of Gilead--a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile. Thus are drafted a whole class of ""handmaids,"" whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred (""of"" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's ""ceremony"" must be successful--if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband--dead--and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur--something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred (""We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices""). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization--this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest--and long on cynicism--it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence. Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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