LITERATURE: The Handmaid’s Tale – Style

Ah, here is where Atwood comes up with language use that lures the reader back into a literary frame of mind, straight into the dangers of her world:

I can’t think of myself, my body, sometimes, without seeing the skeleton: how I must appear to an electron.  A cradle of life, made of bones; and within, hazards, warped proteins, bad crystals jagged as glass.  Women took medicines, pills, men prayed trees, cows at grass, all that souped-up piss flowed into rivers.  Not to mention the exploding atomic power plants, along the San Andreas fault, nobody’s fault, during the earthquakes, and the mutant strain of syphilis no mold could touch.  Some did it to themselves, had themselves tied shut with catgut or scarred with chemicals.  How could they, said Aunt Lydia, oh how could they have done such a thing?  Jezebels!  Scorning God’s gifts!  Wringing her hands.  (p. 112)

So here, in a paragraph, we find maybe not how, but what happened to change our future world that Atwood presents.  The fear of the population dying out, the abducting and training of some women who would serve as vessels, suitable for childbirth.  But without the free will to choose.  To choose when, or with whom.  And the possibility always there, that even if egg and sperm successfully meet, that a monster rather than a much needed human being may be the result.

Whew.  Kinda scary stuff.  And Atwood has laid out her web of workings in hints of the past amid the facts of the present (future) to finally hit us with what we’ve been thinking in much less hard-hitting terms.

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