Warning: Spoilers about the backstory below!
A terrorist attack blamed on Islamic extremists kills the president and wipes out most of Congress. A new movement called the “Sons of Jacob” takes over and revolutionizes the United States, turning it into a militarized, patriarchal, ultra-conservative, Christian-based religious society known as the Republic of Gilead.
Men and women in Gilead live very separate lives. Men have varying military roles and those at the top (the Commanders) are permitted to establish a household. Women are subservient to men and have domestic roles. A woman can be a Wife (married to a high-ranking man), Handmaid (bearer of children for the Wives), Aunt (instructor and supervisor of the Handmaids), Martha (domestic servant), or an Econowife (married to a low-ranking man).
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is told through the eyes of a woman valued only for reproduction, who witnessed the transformation of modern day America into the Republic of Gilead. It’s amazing how quickly and convincingly the radical societal revolution took place.
I love dystopian novels, so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale. I liked how I had to piece together what was happening and why as I was reading. It’s a terrifying prospect of what America could be like if right-wing, Christian fundamentalist ideologies are taken to the extreme: an oppressive, misogynistic theocracy.