While the Boss is Away

WEEK SIXTEEN

BOOKS REMAINING:  31

CURRENT BOOK:  The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My boss is out of the office this morning interviewing law clerks for next summer, and didn’t leave me any work yesterday, so I don’t have much to do right now besides blog.  I offered to help one of the other secretaries in my group.  I even went to see if the copy girl had a job I could take off her hands!  Anyway, I refuse to feel guilty.  I tried.

I feel marginally more guilty about not going to the gym as much as I intended, however, the husband and I have been doing a lot of running around on bathroom-renovation-related business and it is hard to work up the energy when I’ve already done so much else.  I can’t wait for it to be over already!  Not to mention that now we have decided to go ahead with the closet expansion we were planning, at the same time, so we are only dealing with construction dust once.

But I shouldn’t digress too much.  Lately, I’ve begun to think that The List is just as much about significant women authors, as it is about feminist themes.  Some of the selections — including The Handmaid’s Tale — fall into both categories.

The Handmaid’s Tale was dystopian before The Hunger Games or Divergent.  The society depicted has been overtaken by extremists amidst an ongoing religious war, and is very repressive to women.  This is to the point that it is not enough to hold up in court if you have the testimony of one woman, you need two women.  There are standards of dress and behavior.  Above all, the human race has been going barren (blamed on women, although the narrator suspects that there are also sterile men).  Unless they are fortunate enough to belong to the privileged class, barren or “unwomen” are outcast.  The narrator at one time had a husband and daughter, but she does not know what happened to them.  While the three of them were trying to flee the country, the narrator was taken into custody by the authorities and trained to become a breeder for the privileged class.  Her medical condition is closely monitored, and during her fertile time she engages in a threesome with her master and mistress.  She has not yet borne them a child, and is nearing the time when she will be outcast if she does not.  At other times, she assists with household duties and errands.

The narrator is very introspective and surprisingly accepting of her situation (although it seems she was indoctrinated), and is almost matter-of-fact when thinking about how old her daughter would be now or whether her husband might be dead or might arrive at any time to rescue her.  I am curious to see how the novel ends.  Will she get pregnant?  Will she be outcast?  What did happen to her family?  But I have a feeling I’m not going to be satisfied with the outcome any more than I was with The Goldfinch.

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