This novel was a bookclub selection, but I haven't written about. I kept putting it off, because so much was still stirring in my mind.
First of all, none of the readers could believe that 25 years had passed since its publication. They remember reading it in college and thinking that the events seemed improbable. But now, events in recent times have them thinking that this dystopian world could happen.
The start of this dark society was the government's reaction to an Islamic attack. Talk about falling out of our seats. After 9/11, there has been more surveillance! At least, that part of the novel has become reality.
Many of the readers weren't sympathetic to the Narrator. She was too passive for many, especially when she first lost her job. However, if she had resisted, maybe a fate worse than Moira's awaited her, like being sent to the toxic wastelands.
The listless personalities of the other women also surprised the readers? Why didn't they rebel against the Aunts? There were enough of them to overpower them! There was a hint in the novel that the women were drugged, so that's why they didn't resist at all.
The readers then pointed out that being a Wife was worse in some sense than being a Handmaid. Even though the Handmaid was raped once a month, if she was lucky, she got some treats and went out a bit. The Wife had to be humiliated every day with the presence of the Handmaid, and if the ceremony "took," then raise a child that wasn't hers. The Wife was always reminded that she was infertile, that she was incomplete.
The readers enjoyed the lighter moments, like the Scrabble Game between the Narrator and Fred. The double entendres amused everyone.
I later pointed out that all of Atwood's dystopian novels are set in the US and that Canada is seen as the promised land. We still aren't sure why she doesn't believe that such an environment could exist in Canada also.
Our discussion just touched the tip of the themes covered in this slim work. We also wondered how it could be updated. When it was published, only the very rich could afford cell phones and the Internet was used primarily by scientists. Could the Narrator use cell phone technology to start a rebellion after first losing her job? Could a Facebook group be formed to protest the government's takeovers? Or, would everything be shut down so quickly that everyone would be in the dark?