Hulu is premiering on Wednesday the newest adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The Handmaid’sTale is a dystopian novel that narrates the story of Offred, a handmaiden living in a patriarchal and totalitarian America.
Offred is played by Elisabeth Moss, most known for her role in Mad Men. In the novel, Offred is forced, as most women, to become the birthing vessels and “ambulatory chalices” of male politicians and their infertile wives.
The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, and the author attempted to narrate a story influenced by Ronald Reagan’s years in office, when puritanism and so-called traditional values resurged in America.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ depicts a patriarchal and dystopical America
The novel imagines an America, renamed Gilead, in which Congress was slaughtered, the Constitution was thrown away and women were reduced to the role of an Eve whose greatest satisfaction is to be reminded that she started existing as one of Adam’s ribs. Offred, the protagonist of the story, is a proprietary handmaid forced to live in the house of Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes in the show).
“When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up,” Moss is heard saying in the trailer of the show. “When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then, either.”
Her task is to bear children for the Commander and his wife Serena Joy, played by Yvonne Strahovski. She’s forced to allow the Commander to rape her in order to become impregnated with his child. A fertile “handmaid” who’s able to conceive a child will be spared from further degradation and cruelty. Some of the cruelties endured by infertile handmaids include being harshly interrogated over infractions of the social contract by which they are bound or being exiled to perform maintenance duties in the environmentally contaminated colonies.
In Gilead, people witness public executions regularly if they break a law, and they are constantly being monitored by the government. The subservient women are also encouraged to attack male prisoners and tear them to pieces, as a way of letting out steam.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ premieres Wednesday on Hulu
The book is narrated in first person, so there’s a lot of voice-over narration from Offred. The story switches from Offred’s current life as a handmaiden and her previous life, in which she had a partner and a daughter. The first three episodes are more violent than Atwood’s novel, as the show creators envisioned the series taking small references from the book but adding issues that affect nowadays’ world.
The novel has been adapted a number of times, including a film from 1990, as well as adaptations for theater, radio, opera, and a ballet. The first ten episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale premiere Wednesday on Hulu.