Dystopian literature and cinema always held a kind of fascination for me. As someone who loves planning for the future, ( and forgetting to live in the present in the process) it is exciting to read what people think the future looks like.
Most of what I’ve read or seen in this category is usually YA literature like Hunger games, Divergent series and Maze runner series and movies like V for Vendetta, Blade runner, Black mirror series.
All these have one thing in common. I love the concept but don’t see it realistically happening in the future. That’s until I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
No other book has shown dystopia in such a light that has managed to give me nightmares. It differs from what I’ve read in two major aspects:
- YA literature shows the future but never shows how it came to be this way. It simply is. So it doesn’t feel real. While Margaret Atwood has described how the future came to be.
Even you would boil to death in a bathtub of water if it heats slowly enough.
These lines are said by the protagonist Offred giving a clue that the present future came to be very slowly, it creeped up on them so slow that they accepted the reality as they got used to it.
In the novel, it is mentioned in a series of flashbacks that first there were terrorist attacks, so the people gave up their rights of privacy and allowed to the government to conduct surveillance ( sounds familiar?)
Later they imposed emergency restrictions. Again people thought it was temporary only and accepted it as a way of life .Later the government froze bank accounts of women and forces then from workplaces. Again people thought this was for a short time. They couldn’t believe it was happening and we’re sure it would be revoked.
Then the final blow came by a rule which forbid women from holding property. Later their right to have abortions was taken away( because of declining fertility in the world)
These all changes occured so slowly that people took it in their stride and before the women knew it, they had become Handmaidens.
- YA literature always shows a strong female character who is able to overcome all odds and fight them.
What makes The Handmaid’s tale different is that the female protagonist has no real freedom. She is truely oppressed and watched by a facist government like that in V for Vendetta. Thats what makes it more believable. Because in any dystopian future, it’s more likely that rights of women would be the first to be thrown out of the window.
I don’t know about men, but from a female perspectives, this book scared the hell out me in a way that no other book has managed to do in a long time.
If that was not enough, Hulu has recently released series of the same name. It is shockingly similar to the book and follows it line to line. If you want to see your nightmare come alive on screen, I highly recommend it.
This line sums up how everything came to be in the future. Justifying violence or any method of oppression undertaken just because you feel it is for the betterment of people can only lead to disaster because someone will always be worse off.
This is something we all can learn from.