In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
As you may have guessed from the sidebar, I’m currently reading Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Before I started reading it, I had a general idea of what it was about, and that there was a movie based on it. While looking for a used copy online, I discovered that there are a number of study guides out there for Atwood’s novel and was quite surprised. People study this, I thought? What on earth have I gotten myself into? However, I managed to find a copy through Bookmooch and dove in once it arrived.

The first half (I’m not quite done…) was very good. Atwood’s vision of the not so distant future is eerily easy to imagine. How far away are we really from something similar? It certainly made me think more carefully about what I was reading. However, it was a passage I read this morning that felt as though I had been slapped across the face. Wake up, Captain! In the part I’m at, Offred (the narrator) was flashing back to the time before she was a Handmaid and recalling how things had started to change. Small things at first: the elimination of paper/coin money, centralized computers with all your personal information (including bank accounts) on them, a rise in religion and attacks on abortion clinics.

I guess that’s how they were able to do it, in the way they did, all at once, without anyone knowing beforehand. If there had been portable money, it would have been more difficult. It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time...I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?

Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985. Before 9/11. Before George Bush. Before everyone knew how to pronounce Al-Qaeda. Before most people knew where Afghanistan was. Before Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were household names. Before the War on Terror. Before fences popping up along the US/Mexico border.

If we’re not careful, we could be the ones waking up one morning and wondering how they got in, how it happened…

5 comments:

Jocelyn said...

I love that book and haven't read it in at least a decade, so thanks for reminding me of how relevant it is.

Scary.

Wandering Coyote said...

What can I say? Maggie has her strokes of genius, trust me. The Handmaid's Tale is very relevant still, and way before it's time. The movie, however, was not so great.

SME said...

They actually study this in some high schools; a teacher friend is marking horrid essays on it even as I write this.

Very spooky and uncomfortably-close-to-reality, but not as rich and engrossing for me as The Robber Bride or Surfacing.

Red said...

I also see from your list that you're reading Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. May I recommend the most fantastic companion piece to that? It's Mrs Chippy's Last Expedition, the Endurance's resident cat's journal. I laughed all the way through it... then sobbed (literally, tears streaming down my face... *A didn't know what to do with me!) for the last four pages. Wonderful little volume! I must post about it, actually.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I read the Handmaid's Tale long ago, and at the time was struck by how frighteningly realistic it seemed. Now it sounds downright prophetic, and I'm afraif to reread it.

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