The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel about a totalitarian patriarchal society in Cambridge, Massachusetts in The Republic of Gilead formerly known as the United States. In Gilead, women were stripped of all rights. Their sole purpose was reproduction. High ranking official couples that could not have children were assigned handmaids to conceive with the husbands so that the couple could have children. This novel is about Offred, short for Property of Fred, her life as a handmaid for Commander Fred and his wife. Before she was a handmaid, she, her husband, and their young daughter were caught escaping to Canada. Her husband was captured and never heard from again. Her young daughter was taken away by another woman. Offred was forced to become a handmaid. She often recalled the freedom she enjoyed before Gilead, her best friend in college and her family. It was a stark contrast from the totalitarian government she lived now.
This is a powerful book about human rights or lack thereof under a totalitarian government. Even high ranking officials like Commander Fred and his wife who supported the government seemed to seek freedom. The commander kept a private library while books were outlawed. His wife, a gospel singer before Gilead banned music, often hummed a melody when she thought no one was listening. No one could trust a neighbor or a friend because that person could be a spy for the government. It is disheartening that totalitarian government still exists and that there are many people who still live in an oppressed society today.