"The Politics of The Handmaid's Tale" by Gorman Beauchamp
In Canada, they said, 'Could it happen here?' In England, they said, 'jolly good yam.' In the United States, they said, 'How long have we got?'" Such were the reactions, according to an interview that Margaret Atwood gave to The New York Times , to her futuristic novel The Handmaid's Tale . The British response is the calmest, viewing the work, that is, purely as fantasy, like Alice in Wonderland or Lord of the Rings . Canadians feel, apparently, some modest degree of apprehension. But it is in America, where the tale is set, that reaction has been most intense, most alarmed. By now a canonical text (the self-important term that academics use for books that get taught a lot) in university courses, the source of a film and an opera, a work particularly revered by pessi-feminists, The Handmaid's Tale has been widely viewed as a serious commentary on the socio-political conditions of the day. I want to cast a critical eye on the putatively American way of responding to Atwood's tale.