Monday, February 21, 2005


Before college, I read voraciously. All during classes, at night when I should have been sleeping--I always had a book, and was transported to different times and places. I took on the roles of different people. Sure, I had "real life," but fiction was how I really lived.

Since I came to college, I got a real life. And I also got alot of school work. And alot of books. And I became totally and completley fascinated by sociology. When I read books in my spare time, they were sociological. I don't think I had read a fiction book that was not for class in three years (not a new one, anyway; I'd re-read books that I liked, but that doesn't count, really).

But, recently someone suggested Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale to me, so, when I was in the library on Saturday I decided to pick it up. I started it yesterday, and finished it just now. Wow. I had forgotten the thrill that came with a good piece of fiction. The way time just soars by. You look at the clock and it's 2am, and the next time you emerge from the pages it's 5:30 and you realize that you ought to get to bed. That's what I miss.

The writing in this book was stunning. It would be easy to compare this book to Orwell's 1984 (which is due for a re-read!), but I think there is so much more to it. It, too, deals with the role of language in constructing our reality. Women in this future society are known soley in terms of their function: Wives, Handmaids, or Marthas. Their names denote their "owner." The narrator's new name is Offred (Of Fred).

In this new political system that emerges, womens' bodies are political tools. They are only good for reproductive labor. Handmaids are there for when upper class women are unable to have children (taken from the Bible). Marthas cook and clean. Women cannot vote, hold jobs, or even read. There is a strong "pro-woman" rhetoric that is belied by their constant oppression. Women are complicit in this. Given nominal bits of power over other women, they are complacent with their lot.

The narrator splices her tale throughout with fragmented memories. The reader is left with more questions than answers. The, ending, especially, is frustrating and at the same time satisfying. There could be no other ending.

I could go on and on. But I won't. I have homework to do. It's tempting to go check out some more fiction. Any recommendations? I'm afraid, though, that if I let myself back into the dark abyss that is fiction, I'll never find my way out again! I'm (mostly) kidding. But, I do have homework to get done and papers to write and (non-fiction) books to read...


Cheeky Prof said...

Wow, it's been years since I've read that book! The movie isn't bad either (for an adaptation). You'd probably like any of Atwood's other stuff.

As for other fiction:
Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, Aldous Huxley's Island and Brave New World, and, oh, I could go on and on but you don't need the distraction!

Jennifer said...

There's a MOVIE?! *heads off to*

Thanks for the recommendations. I'm always up for distractions.