The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
you fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
This is my favorite poem. A 9th-grader learned how powerful words could be.
1) “It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.”
For me, there are two candidates for word of the year 2019: “disappeared” and “suicided.” Passive voice, not past tense.
2) “Not many things are plastic, anymore. I remember those endless white plastic shopping bags, from the supermarket; I hated to waste them and would stuff them in under the sink, until the day would come when there would be too many and I would open the cupboard door and they would bulge out, sliding over the floor.”
San Francisco, 2020.
3) “The hooks have been set into the brickwork of the Wall, for this purpose. Not all of them are occupied. The hooks look like appliances for the armless. Or steel question marks, upside down and sideways.”
Like a hook into an eye.
4) “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”
Semper ubi sub ubi. Always wear underwear.
5) “You are a transitional generation, said Aunt Lydia. It is the hardest for you.”
But bad things happen so often that every generation is a transitional generation.
6) “There are five different prayers: for health, wealth, a death, a birth, a sin. You pick the one you want, punch in the number, then punch in your own number so your account will be debited, and punch in the number of times you want the prayer repeated.”
I didn’t get a good grasp on the economic structure of Gilead. At first I thought it was more socialist due to the food stamp-like tickets they used at the stores.
7) “Sorry, he said. This number’s not valid.”
Sometimes I get paranoid that everything is digital and can just vanish or disappear.
8) “I didn’t go on any of the marches. Luke said it would be futile and I had to think about them, my family, him and her.”
I used to think that voting was futile, but now unfortunately I see it as a privilege.
9) “Those years were just an anomaly, historically speaking, the Commander said. Just a fluke. All we’ve done is return things to Nature’s norm.”
More and more, I feel like I are living in an anomaly too. (Relative) peace in the last 70 years is the exception, not the rule. Just the right place at the right time.
10) “As I have said elsewhere, there was little that was truly original with or indigenous to Gilead: its genius was synthesis.”
I almost didn’t read this epilogue. I’m glad I did because it explained Gilead at a high level. The most chilling part was the “(laughter)” of the audience who seemed to think that such crazy atrocities would never happen again.
Without a doubt, an amazing book and a cautionary tale. At times, I actually found the story less grim and horrific than expected. Based on what I remember, Gilead is a less oppressive regime than, say, the one in 1984. As mentioned in 10), nothing really seemed out of the ordinary, which is the scariest thing about it.