The Handmaid’s Tale – IRJE #4

In beginning of Margaret Atwood’s celebrated novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”, we understand that the book is written in first-person. Within the first few pages, we do not learn the narrators name, but can understand some aspects of their life. They describe what life is like in what is described to be an old school. They sleep in the gymnasium, take two walks per day around the football field. Angels, who are armoured guards, patrol the outside. These guards have their backs faced to those walking around the enclosed space, never to speak to them. The area is described in a very mundane and gloomy tone. The narrator seems far from enthusiastic about their living situation.

No guns though, even they could not be trusted with guns. Guns were for the guards, specially picked from the Angels. The guards weren’t allowed inside the building except when called, and we weren’t allowed out, except for our walks, twice daily, two by two around the football field which was enclosed now by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. The Angels stood outside it with their backs to us. They were objects of fear to us, but of something else as well. If only they would look. If only we could talk to them. Something could be exchanged, we thought, some deal made, some trade-off, we still had our bodies. That was our fantasy. (p. 4)

The following quote is taken from the rather short first chapter. By this point in the book, this is a fair portion of the information that has been described to the reader, making it rather significant as of this time (in the book). The character from whose perspective we are interpreting the story from speaks of this place as a very secure and potentially frightening. We begin to take the impression that this place is closer to a type of jail rather than a school. Overall, the beginning to this book sets a very clear tone on how the rest of the story will progress.

Nyah Sharratt – 11/29

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