The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Feels like: When everybody said “There’s no way that would actually happen!” and then it actually happened.

Song pairing: “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga

The Handmaid’s Tale was a book on the summer reading list in high school that I never got to read. But looking back at the subject matter that this book relates to, maybe this groundbreaking novel is best left for those who can better understand and learn from it.

This book deserves the best analyzing there is to offer. This book needs to be advertised to those old enough to understand its modern relevance and those who can reverse that very idea. You would think, with a name like The Handmaid’s Tale that the book would be set in a past long before us. The scary reality is that it’s set in the not too distant future. The main character references a time before she became trapped in a handmaiden’s hell.

This all comes to show the readers how fast this change in life style occurred and how quickly the societal structure that we know changed in a drastic and unfortunate way. Realizing this, I related to a famous quote from the book that says, “The fall was a fall from innocence to knowledge.” I did a lot of research while reading this book and came across wonderful information that helped me understand and connect better to the story. Some of the best analytics came from and they are included here.

“In this patriarchal world, men cannot be called sterile. If a woman fails to conceive, she is labeled “barren,” and no one considers that the man’s sterility may have been the reason. Gilead adopts premodern beliefs and rejects modern science in order to glorify men. Yet the doctor’s comments to Offred, our main character whose name stems from “Of Fred” who is her “owner,” show that the belief is adopted only “officially.” Privately, people realize that men, especially older men, like the commanders, or “owners,” can be sterile. Offred’s fear seems inexplicable at first – how could she not long to escape? But it illustrates the prisoner mentality that sometimes over takes her and others. She wants to survive and the best way to survive is to learn to bear her chains. When she bears them too well, they become almost comforting to her. Her captivity becomes familiar and the prospect of a new, free life becomes the true, irrational fear.” **

This historic novel leaves no current political quarrel untouched. It’s a novel for the ages and the many more ages to come. We can only hope this book breaks the glass and changes the game.

There is a constant comparison between Offred’s life and that of a prison inmate. Of course, how could a reader not make such a parallel? “I should scratch marks on the wall, one for each day of the week, and run a line through them when I have seven. But what would be the use, this isn’t a jail sentence; there’s no time here that can be done and finished with.” This can be expressive of the mental hell that many sexual assault victims go through.

I was asked to pick a song that I felt best represented the emotions that I went through while reading this novel. I easily and quickly chose “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga. While you can connect to the song in many different ways and for many different situations, the song was ultimately written about sexual assault. Most people and fans don’t know that Lady Gaga was the victim of sexual assault. She debuted the song at the 2016 Oscars. She had women from all over take the stage with writing on their arms. “Not your fault” was written on the arms of more than twenty women, making a powerful statement for everyone to see.

You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time
You say I’ll pull myself together, pull it together
You’ll be fine
Tell me what the hell do you know
What do you know
Tell me how the hell could you know
How could you know
‘Til it happens to you, you don’t know
How it feels
How it feels
‘Til it happens to you, you won’t know
It won’t be real
No it won’t be real
Won’t know how it feels
You tell me hold your head up
Hold your head up and be strong
‘Cause when you fall, you gotta get up
You gotta get up and move on

The song perfectly captures the essence of the storyline. Throughout Offred’s narration we find how she chooses to cope, first by accepting her fate in order to stay safe and then rejecting it all together with the phrase “Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum” translated to “Don’t let the bastards tear you down.” Now doesn’t that sound like something Lady Gaga would say?

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