The Handmaid's Tale
“”And Adam was not deceived, but the women being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved by childbearing.
Criticial reaction can be summarized as "Oh, this loony Canuck is overreacting about Christian influence in American politi-DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE WE DONE." It won the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987.
 Background to the story
Set in the
United States following its transformation into a theocracy "Republic of Gilead," it follows the tribulations of Offred, a "handmaid" who belongs to a man named Commander Fred (hence the name, "Of Fred"). The premise allowing Atwood to critique of control of women's sexuality and reproduction, is the fact that in the book's post-apocalyptic setting, most women have become infertile. Women lose all value as anything but walking incubators. Women are classified by their economic background and their ability to have children. Those that have financial status are, or become, "wives." If they are unable to conceive, they are given a "handmaid" whose job is to conceive and bear the wife's child. Any handmaid who has had three failed pregnancies is killed. All women are denied any education.
This dystopian (or utopian to a fundamentalist) novel is apparently considered a handbook for how to run the country by some people. Gender treachery has the death penalty, as do many other crimes. The Jews have been sent back to Israel, though many of the boats were scuttled, while the Children of Ham have been resettled in North Dakota. And all are safe under the ever vigilant Eyes of God.
 Modern comparisons
In the Handmaid's Tale, women's only true role is that of reproduction. For the Elite, sex is not supposed to be an act of pleasure, but a job that demands minimal time spent in the act itself. The clear ties to a Puritan existence, where pleasure and sin are conflated, is easily apparent. Comparisons to the more recent War on Women are also fairly apt.
The novel is not a "feminist text" per se. It is usually favoured as school reading material because it addresses feminist issues, but seems to let everybody off the hook. On the other hand, the book seems to offer no real solutions to the problems faced by men and women, except empathy. Atwood also discusses radical feminism's occasional colluding with wingnuts.
 Caste system
Women in Gilead are divided into castes based on their "job":
- Handmaids (The aforementioned walking incubators) wear red.
- Wives wear blue.
MaidsMarthas wear green.
- Econowives, wearing a mix of red, blue, and green, serve men who cannot afford a more elaborate
- Daughters wear white.
- Jezebels who are sterilized prostitutes.
- And so on.
 Why you should read the book or see the movie
- Pat Robertson hates both.