4/27/17

The Handmaid's Tale

"The Handmaid's Tale" is quite good. It's pretty much how I imagine things would be were the fundamentalists able to wrest control, or otherwise not be restrained by secular law.
It has strong overtones of Heinlein's "If this goes on --" which is one of my favorites of his stories, and which is probably why "Handmaid" strikes such a strong chord. Imagine, if you will, the First Prophet, Nehemiah Scudder, being played by John Hagee or Mike Huckabee or David Barton or some other despicable fundie televangelist/politician/defrocked author, and his descendant prophets running the country. Heinlein's story was published as a serial in 1940; then it was incorporated into his 1953 collection, "Revolt in 2100," which is where I found it. I first read it when I was maybe 10 or 11. I had been devouring his 'youth' SF's, and came across this one, which is anything but a 'youth' SF. Even back then, Heinlein's view of fundamentalists in the US rang true, all the more remarkable because it was written well before the Second Red Scare and the rise of 'Christian' fundamentalism in the US. I have to wonder if Atwood was influenced by it.
"Handmaid," however, seems concentrated on the plight of women in a biblically-driven theocracy. Heinlein's story had that, but it was a sub-theme, in a larger freedom fight. In this story, we're dealing at least initially with a modern interpretation and application of the biblical threesome, Rachel, Bilhah, and Jacob. The first episode was somewhat disappointing in only one respect, as I would have expected a good old Levitican stoning in the 'particicution,' a new word apparently describing a group (participatory) execution.
We have plenty of people who in the guise of biblical belief are perfectly willing to break out the stakes and torches, and light the faggots (no play on words intended) around the non-believers, heretics, 'unwomen' (and presumably 'unmen') and anyone else not fitting the biblical bill. That's why the story so far is quite believable.