‘The Testaments’ Further Explores Margaret Atwood’s Feminist Dystopia

‘The Testaments’ Further Explores Margaret Atwood’s Feminist Dystopia By  for The Federalist

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Testaments,’ she expands upon the dystopian vision created by ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ and reveals political complexities that many ardent fans overlook.

For a work predestined to become a political football, Margaret Atwood’s novel The Testaments is admirably oblivious to current events. It’s the surprise sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, coming 34 years after that culturally influential work.

In recent years, it’s become part of the political miasma since its 2017 adaptation by the streaming service Hulu. The Handmaids’ red capes became familiar sights at rallies against Brett Kavanaugh, signifiers of dawning female oppression – i.e. restrictions on abortion – under President Trump.

Given the most recent controversy involving sex and politics, it’s amusing to contemplate heads exploding at the sight of women in the Handmaids’ puritanical outlets showing up at Biden rallies this summer. Alas, our current real-life dystopia is likely to stop large campaign events and the attendant public protests for the foreseeable future.

The novels are near-future dystopian thrillers about an oppressive patriarchal theocracy that takes over a swath of the United States, already mired in a fertility crisis, after a terrorist attack on Washington wipes out the federal government. The Republic of Gilead clamps down with brutal alacrity.

Women can’t own property or earn money. Most are forbidden to learn to read, their pursuits narrowed to flower arranging and crochet. The few fertile women are coerced into becoming Handmaids, bearing children for the regime’s male Commanders, stripped even of their names.

Bloody World, Dry Wit

The Testaments (a brilliant title) begins 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, which ended with the heroine Offred, signifying “Of-Fred,” whisked away to an uncertain fate. The scope and scale of The Testaments are kept vague, although everyone in Gilead seems to have met everyone else. There is a feel of a rotting edifice, of whited sepulchers, ominously creaking. The regime has devolved into a “dog-eat-dog mentality” and “Gilead is a slippery place: Accidents often happen.”

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