Naomi R. Mercer: why should you read The Handmaid’s Tale

9 July 2022

The Handmaid’s Tale, speculative fiction novel written in 1985 by Margaret Atwood, is set in the fictitious Republic of Gilead — usually referred to as Gilead — a totalitarian patriarchal theocracy, occupying much of what is the continental United States. Gilead is a place where even the most basic rights and liberties of many, particularly women, have been curtailed.

But the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling giving women the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, has stoked fears of a Gilead-like regime becoming reality.

Talk of other long standing rights — including access to contraception, and same sex marriage — possibly being rescinded, is doing little to quell such concerns.

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in 2019, weeks before Atwood announced she was publishing a follow-up, The Testaments. If you haven’t already read her 1985 novel, I recommend it to you, and a TEDEd video presentation Naomi R. Mercer made in 2018, is an excellent introduction.


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