Margaret Atwood: There's nothing in The Handmaid's Tale 'that didn't happen, somewhere'
If we are to learn just one thing from dystopian fiction, it’s to try and make sure not to let evil empires, dictatorships, or totalitarian states rise. But Margaret Atwood, author of the pivotal 1985 speculative fiction The Handmaid’s Tale, has been increasingly vocal about the current political climate, and what it means for individuals — especially women.
Her book, about a near-future version of North America in which the Constitution has been overthrown and women lose all their rights, is being made into a Hulu series starring Elizabeth Moss, slated for release next month. On Wednesday, the celebrated author hosted a Reddit AMA in which she addressed the chilling proximity between her book’s universe and the current state of affairs for women. When asked about her main points of influence for The Handmaid’s Tale, this is what she had to say:
“1) What some people said they would do re: women if they had the power (they have it now and they are); 2)17th C Puritan New England, plus history through the ages — nothing in the book that didn’t happen, somewhere.”
When asked about feminist influences, and what advice she has for the younger generations of women, Atwood does not shy away from touching upon the most pressing of issues:
“My interest was in women of all kinds — and they are of all kinds,” she wrote. “They are interesting in and of themselves, and they do not always behave well…We are now in what is being called the 3rd wave — seeing a lot of pushback against women, and also a lot of women pushing back in their turn. I’d say in general: be informed, be aware. The priorities in the US are roughly trying to prevent the roll-back that is taking place especially in the area of women’s health. Who knew that this would ever have to be defended? Childbirth care, pre-natal care, early childhood care — many people will not even be able to afford any of it. Dead bodies on the floor will result. It is frightful. Then there is the whole issue of sexual violence being used as control — it is such an old motif.”
And perhaps most noteworthy was one Reddit user’s pointed question, “How does it feel knowing America is basically on the road to becoming Gilead [the fictional theocratic dystopia in her story]?”
Atwood’s answer: “I cannot tell you how strange this feels. I wrote the book hoping to fend it off, and I believe it will be fended off: America is very diverse, a lot of people have been jolted out of political slumber and are paying attention, and the Constitution still stands. The upcoming Hulu TV series of which I’ve seen 3 episodes is even more up-to-date and chilling than the book, so let’s see how that may impact. Support your leaders who are standing against unconstitutional laws; keep informed, as best as possible. Everything is ‘as best as possible’ right now.”
The Handmaid’s Tale stars Moss, Joseph Fiennes, and Alexis Bledel, and is set to premiere on Hulu on April 26.