I would love to believe that all of us actually read the books we were assigned to read in English class, but I know that is a pretty improbable assumption. But, hey--no judgment here. However, as a literature-enthusiast, I willingly read all of the books my teachers offered to the class. Not all of them were wonderful, I will admit; many were actually quite boring. Though one thing is certain. They all taught me more about the human condition and the importance of telling stories. Reading has made me a better person, and here is the book I most strongly recommend if you are looking to improve yourself as well.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale considers the possible outcomes of adopting a major theocratic government. The novel focuses on the oppression of women, and the patriarchal society that is, in some ways, quite similar to that of our own. In the Republic of Gilead (a former region of the United States), families reside. Families: Commanders, Wives, Marthas, Drivers, and Handmaids. The Handmaid’s only purpose is to produce children. Being the only fertile women left, they each are assigned to a home and then raped as an attempt to impregnate. There is no such thing as a barren man, so if the woman is infertile, they are basically useless. Unless you are a wife of one of the founding Commanders. The Handmaid’s children are not theirs. They are the Commander’s. The Handmaids are objects, not members of society. The Handmaid’s Tale is one Handmaid’s recount of her experience in this position, and it is a gut-wrenching read.
I read this book in my LIT-101 class (highly recommend) during the fall semester. I know I sound absolutely ridiculous, but this novel completely changed my life. Prior to reading The Handmaid’s Tale, I considered myself a baby feminist. Since then, my view has only grown in strength. Reading about the hardships of these women and the corrupt government they suffer under, I realized a horrible truth: this could happen here. With the overturning of Roe v Wade in June of 2022, the rights of women were once again stolen from them. The fact that the men are deciding what women do with their bodies is absolutely absurd.
This country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state; however, more and more the United States government is turning to the bible for instruction. If Christian practices or scripture continue to be used as the basis of this country’s laws and regulations, the United States will be a replica of Gilead. I refuse to let myself or any other women be objectified. This novel warned me of the possible future--everyone needs to read this book before society crumbles.
My biggest piece of advice is to read the books assigned to you in English class; they really matter. Be cognisant of literature of the world, and respect everyone's individual views. When you read books that differ from what you believe, you grow more empathy and understanding of others. The Handmaid's Tale is just ONE of the books that helped me. Let the lessons of literature help you as well.