Margaret Atwood says The Handmaid’s Tale wasn’t ‘written as a feminist novel’ and she was simply ‘writing a dystopian novel from the female point of view’
- The author says acclaimed novel took inspiration from George Orwell’s 1984
- Written as classic dystopia from female perspective rather than feminist novel
- Says novel is seen as feminist by ‘those who think women shouldn’t have a voice’
Margaret Atwood says her acclaimed novel The Handmaid’s Tale was not intended as a feminist work and that she simply wanted to ‘give women a voice’ in the dystopian genre.
The novel follows a woman named Offred who is forced to live as ‘handmaid’ producing children against her will in a totalitarian North America. It became an instant feminist classic upon its release in 1985.
However Canadian novelist Margaret, 82, says she never wanted to create a ‘feminist dystopia’, instead trying to form a classic dystopian novel ‘from the female point of view’.
She says the book, which took inspiration from the epilogue of George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, was branded as feminist by those who ‘think women ought not have voice’.
‘I wanted to try a dystopia from the female point of view – the world according to Julia, as it were’, she said in an essay for The Sunday Telegraph.
Margaret Atwood says her acclaimed novel The Handmaid’s Tale was not intended as a feminist work and that she simply wanted to ‘give women a voice’ in the dystopian genre
‘However, this does not make The Handmaid’s Tale a ‘feminist dystopia’, except insofar as giving a woman a voice and an inner life will always be considered ‘feminist’ by those who think women ought not to have these things.’
She explained that the majority of dystopias have been written from the male point of view, and that female characters are usually ‘sexless automatons’ or women who deny the new sexual regime.
The writer says themes explored in the book parallel power dynamics in real life and in various works of literature including Nineteen Eighty-Four.
‘The force that opposes the tyranny in my book is one in which Orwell himself – despite his belief in the need for political organisation to combat oppression – always put great store: ordinary human decency’, she wrote.
The acclaimed novel follows a woman named Offred who is forced to live as ‘handmaid’ producing children against her will in a totalitarian North America. Elisabeth Moss plays handmaid Offred in the TV adaptation of the book
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, where a brutal regime has replaced the United States government after a worldwide fertility crisis emerged.
Fertile women, known as handmaids, are forced to provide children for the rich and influential while women who can’t conceive are sent to work in toxic wastelands or as prostitutes.
Offred, whose real name is June, had her own daughter taken from her before being placed with the high-ranking Waterford family – where she is routinely raped by Fred in order to conceive his child.
Her name is an abbreviation of ‘Of Fred’ – the name of her master.
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a near future where fertile women, known as handmaids, are forced to provide children for the rich and influential
Last year the author released a sequel to her cult novel, which managed to scoop the Man Booker Prize two months before it was even released. The book is set 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale.
The original novel has been made into a popular TV series, which was met with critical acclaim when it debuted in 2017, winning five Primetime Emmy Awards for its first season.
Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss plays handmaid Offred, the main character in the series, alongside Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd.
The latest season of the drama aired in summer last year and has been commissioned for a fifth series expected to hit the small screens this year.
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