Question of the Day: “How did I fall down THIS rabbit hole?”

My newest obsession is Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. It is a strange dystopian future which is marred and peppered with so many things from the past. To me it reads like The Scarlet Letter and Jane Eyre, a female perspective of a world gone mad. I’ve always connected it with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, though they are nothing alike. Chaucer’s stories have a comical air one will not find in The Handmaid’s Tale.

It all started when my co-teacher gave me Testament, which is the much awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, so to get ready to read the second book, I reread the first.

If you have never reread a book at two different points in your life, I highly recommend. It is eye-opening, but it does lead me to today’s question: “How did I fall down this rabbit hole?”

I am starting to feel a bit like Alice. I have followed a rabbit through a knothole in a tree and awoke to the world with a different set of eyes. I feel like I see the world in ways I have never imagined before. Yes, it is a bit of a rebirth, but it is not all rainbows and butterflies. I feel as if the view is dark and gritty in ways I could not previously imagine. Something has been lifted from my eyes and I see clearer than before.

“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”

― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is told through the protagonist who is being held against her will. She is forced to be the third wheel for a powerful couple who are unable to have a child. The world has turned upside down and the religious right has taken over. Everything is for the will of God. Some are exalted but most are submerged in a nightmare of subservience and pain. When I read this book at the tender age of sixteen, I wrongly believed this type of world could never truly be, but it was interesting to read about.

Now as an adult woman with two children of her own, I see with despair how possible this make-believe world is. I see how fragilely we hold “these truths to be self-evident” and how slippery the strings of freedom truly are.

I was so naïve to believe that others around me held the same ideals as I do. The belief that the religious right were zealots with limited means and limited power. The narrow view that hatred, though real, could never wield any power in a country dedicated to freedom of religion and equality for all.

I believed that being an educator meant I was in the perfect position to help enact real social change.

“The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you’ve been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil”

― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

So now I am here. I am in the darkness, which is not a truly terrible place. There is very little light here. Probably for the best. Too much light would hurt my new eyes.

Sending Love…