The chilling relevance of The Handmaid’s Tale

The chilling relevance of The Handmaid’s Tale
Our October cover star Elisabeth Moss's views of the world of The Handsmaid's Tale and how it correlates with modern global politics.

Based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead. The story is set in the near future, a time when fertility rates have collapsed as a result of sexually transmitted diseases [the book was written in 1985] and environmental pollution. The totalitarian, Christian theonomic government of ‘Gilead’ has established rule in the former USA in the aftermath of civil war. Worldwide infertility has resulted in the conscription of the few remaining fertile women in Gilead, called handmaids. They are assigned to the homes of the leaders, where they must submit to rape by their male masters in order to become pregnant and bear children for those men and their wives. In the series Elisabeth Moss plays Offred, a handmaid assigned to one of the homes of the ruling elite. Atwood has said that the events in the novel were based on real-life events in the world, from the biblical handmaids who served Jacob to increasing infertility rates. Moss also believes the symbolism is relevant to what’s happening in the world today.

“Even though it presents a very pessimistic view of the world and the future of women, I think the symbolism is very relevant to what’s going on in the world today. When you look at what’s happening in my country and in many other parts of the world you can see how women’s rights are often under threat. That’s what’s truly frightening. I’m much more worried about the future than ever before.”

“ [As women] we’ve got to have our backs and look out for each other. One of the great observations that Margaret Atwood explored was how women treat each other and how things can go very wrong when women are pitted against each other instead of uniting.”


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