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The much awaited sequel to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale came out last week, The Testaments. Why is this book so relevant today?
Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale came out just a week ago. Even before the general public had access to it, it had been nominated for a literary prize. Now that speaks volumes about the content secured between the pages of this book.
Anyone who has read The Handmaid’s Tale or seen the TV show will know that Gilead and its world is mind-numbing.
How can a world exist where women are only supposed to do the man’s bidding and produce offspring? How can a world exist where women are told what to say, wear, do and feel? And yet, despite the book being written in 1985, that kind of a world seems dangerously close.
The Handmaid’s Tale might be set in New England, with a focus on Christian Fundamentalism, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to the wave of Fundamentalism we are currently witnessing in our country.
Recently, a college in Hyderabad created an atrocious dress code for its female students. Why? So that they could “get good marriage proposals”!
But who are they to decide if we want job offers or marriage proposals? Who are they to decide whether their female students would rather submit a thesis proposal than deal with a marriage proposal? Why is their marital life so important to college educators, who act like annoying, concerned relatives who just can’t stop giving advice?
The Testaments ties up all the loose ends in the previous book. It was a long time coming, and written in part due to readers’ requests to find out more about what happens to the primary character in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Not to give away too many spoilers, it is safe to say that The Testaments presents an even more harrowing picture. And that is what makes the book a little bit scary.
Girls and women in the book were told who to marry, how to behave, and to give in to men without any resistance. Does the last line echo with you? It might, because, in recent years, we have seen many a politician espouse this same rhetoric differently.
Whether it is a developing country or a developed country, women are oppressed everywhere. From questions about abortion to the matter of their clothing, it is getting tiring to listen to the same old message that women are weak, feeble, and not capable of making our own decisions.
Women are leading in the Olympics, governing without any help, rising to great heights in the armed forces, becoming successful entrepreneurs, and running their homes with ease. There is nothing a woman can’t do, and no matter how many men disagree, their sexist, misogynist thinking isn’t going to change reality.
Here is to hoping that more girls and women pick up both these books and understand the ramifications of not pushing back against a patriarchal society.
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