The Handmaid's Tale

A Letter to Margaret Atwood

Dear Ms. Atwood,

Is this how you imagined it would begin?

To preface this letter, I should admit that I am a devout fan of yours. I read The Handmaid’s Tale about five times in high school and treasured it like it was my Bible. I attribute my feminist enlightenment to that novel. Having spent the majority of my schooling at an evangelical Chrisitan school, the story felt particularly poignant to me. The Biblical references to Gilead, Jezebels, and the Beatitudes, for example, seemed pulled from my daily diction. Though certainly not to the same extreme, I compared my own entrapment in a religious space to Offred’s entrapment in Gilead. Through her story, I could grapple with mine. 

I found The Handmaid’s Tale in 2016. You published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985. American society is still battling against Gilead-like tendencies in 2020. In several aspects, your novel has predicted the future. Men in power decide what women do with their bodies. The right to have an abortion is still up for debate. Church and state are the most intertwined that I have seen in my lifetime. There have been rumors that the government wants to reverse gay marriage. Hate crimes riddle our communities. No matter how much I hope or engage or organize, my mind keeps returning to The Handmaid’s Tale. Has nothing changed since 1985? Have the last four years regressed us? Or have we actually made progress, but I’m too young to notice the good? Questions like these swarm my mind whenever I dwell on the future of my country, and I continually turn to you, Ms. Atwood, and your writing. 

The future is female Photo by Lindsey LaMont from Unsplash Did you see this coming, or is this your worst nightmare?

My consciousness is entirely split. Half of me thinks I am naive and simply overreacting. I haven’t experienced egregious hardships, so anything that might disrupt my life becomes egregious. The other half of me thinks I’ve hit the nail on the head and, if anything, I’m underreacting. American society is sinking as we speak and I can’t go down with the ship. I must get to Canada before the borders close. I cannot determine which outcome is worse. When is it too late to see the signs? What do you know that we don’t? 

My generation has the unique experience of being politically engaged since leaving the womb. For several reasons, we are acutely aware of the political landscape. Corrupt governments have been smeared on TV screens for decades. Human rights infringements are commonplace in textbooks. Parents tell stories of far-off wars that America had no business being in, emphasizing how lucky we are in today’s world. It is because of this upbringing that I am hesitant to say that America is falling, not unlike Rome. I have always been told that this is the best it has ever been, but what if I think otherwise? Naturally, I turn to the older generations and citizens of other countries to help me reconcile this. How do we look from an elder’s perspective? How do we look from a Canadian’s perspective?

protest sign that says Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels Do I have reason to be this worried, Ms. Atwood? 

I don’t know what move to make next. Part of me wants to flee America for the Irish countryside and part of me also wants to stay and fight. Four years of regression and bigotry in our government wasn’t enough for some people, which breaks my heart. This election is proof that nearly half of our country still stands for bigotry. I don’t want to be somewhere that refuses to value intrinsic human worth, in all its forms. Worst comes to worst, women are enslaved for a religious authoritarianship. Best comes to best, half of my country doesn’t believe me or my friends should have all our God-given rights. 

It is not my intention to have made this a depressing letter, Ms. Atwood. I am merely asking for advice. You freed my mind once, and I was wondering if you might once more. So, where do I go from here? Do you even know, or did you pull it all out of thin air?

Even if you did make it all up, tell me another story. 

Sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen