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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Handmaid's Tale Readalong, Final Thoughts and Wrap-up

Below are the final Q&As for the Handmaid's Tale Readalong on the Classics Reads Book Club

There was a previous post of questions, but I missed it, and lets face it, September has flown right on by. So let's get down to the final round of Q&A:

The Commander says, “Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.” Do you think this society is better for anyone?

The society in the book is better for those in charge, because they have all the power. They can say and do what they please, enforce rules when they like, it's a totalitarian society.

I'm sure there are some people who like the new rules, like the religious persons who helped to build the new society. They probably believe they were doing the right thing for society, saving souls and people, etc. They have their reasons, whether I think they are right or wrong. Different strokes for different folks.

What do you think Offred means when she says, “We were both feeling miserable. How were we to know we were happy, even then.”

Things can always be worse. You may be feeling crappy now, but you could always feel more crappy. Life can change on a whim and you need to be prepared.

What do you think Offred’s motivation was to record all of this?

I think Offred had several reasons for recording her story. Firstly, it was a type of therapy, to get it all out there, to speak about what happened to her. Not only because she wasn't allowed to speak when it was occurring, but because she finally had a voice and hopefully someone would find these tapes and help fix the situation.

Offred was reclaiming her own voice.

Jeanne suggested this great question: What is your first reaction to hearing Prof Pieixoto say “we must be cautious about passing moral judgment upon the Gildeadeans” and what is your more considered reaction?
Is objectivity really necessary when studying the Gileadeans?

I would like to answer these two questions together, because I instantly think of the anthropological theory of cultural relativity.  When one studies a culture, you do not judge that culture based on your own reasons or societal standards.  Actually you don't judge the culture at all.  One studies it, reports on it, and tries to learn from it, from it's own point of view.

The Handmaid's Tale took place over 150 years ago.  We didn't live then, we don't know what it was really like, so how can we say what they did was right or wrong for the situation at that that time. Hearing this story years later, well yes, I have a different opinion, but there are two sides to every story.  If the environment and situation really were that bad, then maybe someone or group had to take the situation in hand.  If the people of the time were not savvy enough to realize what was going on, well then there is nothing one can do now.  Almost like a perfect storm of events.

For example, Hitler coming into power, the Holocaust, WWII, there were lots of little warning signs and things that happened to cause the situation.  It wasn't one thing that happened. It started at the end of WW I with the reparations Germany had to pay.  Their economy couldn't handle it, people became desperate, and it took very little for a crazy person to take control and gain all the power.  The situation snowballed, and the rest is history.  Yes, hindsight is 20/20, I realize that, but history does repeat itself.  We must learn from past mistakes.
What did you think of The Handmaid’s Tale as a whole? Did it make you look at anything different? Did it scare you in any way?

I enjoyed the Handmaid's Tale immensely, and am so sorry I didn't read it until now.  This book makes me think about the world we live in now, and how it wouldn't take much to turn our world and life upside down.  Let me tell you though, if I wake up one day, and the government is wiped out in a single terrorist attack, you best believe my ass in a car on my way up north to Canada.  I am not sitting in my house waiting to hear what I should do next.   I am an optimist, but I am no fool.  I will take my chances on trying to get out of the country, one way or the other, and if I die trying, so be it.

Yes, I may sound like a conspiracy theorist or crack pot, but I think it's about being aware of your surroundings and what your government is doing.  I don't trust everything I see or read.  I gather the information and try to make an informed opinion.  We do have a lot of freedoms in America, I know that.  But we also have a responsibility to uphold that freedom, and hold our government responsible for answering to we the people.  I don't think the average American does a very good job of this.  Sorry, but I don't, not when I see that most people are more interested in the Kardashians or what is more fashionable right now, skinny jeans or tights.  How about going out to vote or understanding what is going in Congress right now?  Just saying, look around at people...what do think would happen if Offred's world came to life right now?  
And one more morsel for thought: The American Revolution was started by a small group of gentlemen, mostly landowners and merchants becuase they felt the English taxes the most.  The majority of the colonists were not interested, or not fully aware of what was going on.  However, if Redcoats start shooting at you, you are going to shoot back.  Basically, it wouldn't take much to start a revolution or uprising.  Be prepared my friends!

So what do you think?  Have you read this book or gleaned enough information from this Q&A to have an opinion?  I'm thinking I should read 1984 soon, or will that just put me back on my soap box?
As always, I love to hear your thoughts :)


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