Handmaid’s Tale Vs Palace of Illusions
by RajaRajeshwari Arenga
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood had been on my “To Be Read” list for a while. So when the opportunity presented itself to pick up a book in the feminist dystopian genre, I didn’t hesitate to pick up this novel.
Let me start with the part of the story that impacted me the most. The ending.
I liked the abrupt ending where the protagonist’s fate is left open to interpretation. It felt ambiguous yet tantalizingly hopeful as the odds seemed stacked in favour of an outcome that would include her escaping and joining a rebel group, maybe even reuniting with her (what’s left of her) family, moving on to a different continent towards a humane life.
The epilogue/historical notes seemed to indicate Offred’s phase was the initial one in the Gilead era rather than the peak or the ending…The dramatic part of me would have preferred it… if it was indicated as an end phase implying that Offred maybe escaped and added spark to the rebellion, that ended that the Gilead’s totalitarian regime.
Made me wonder how Gilead fell.
The historical notes from a bigger picture offered a vision of a better, brighter future that is inclusive in its ethnic and gender diversity. That gave me a sense of closure. The future members’ impersonal and objective view of Offred’s heart-wrenching tale and slicing and dicing of the events in her story, researching for clues about the workings of that historical totalitarian society, lent the epilogue/historical notes credibility.
I happened to read Palace of illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, just prior to reading Handmaids tale.
Can’t help but draw comparisons between the two. At an abstract level.
The portrayal of the events in both felt chillingly real on account of the rich, raw, poignant and powerful narratives. In the Handmaids tale it made the despair and horror of her situation extremely intense and stand out, when juxtaposed against her reminisces of her ordinary, normal and relatable interactions especially with her mother.
Underlying common thread depicts the oppression of women and their volatile status in society. Her status, her life can change in a heartbeat. Her rights can be swept away in the blink of an eye…Handmaid’s tale’s portrayal about especially the technical ease of turning off her financial freedom is frighteningly realistic.
Coming to think of it, the current rights, freedom enjoyed by women are rather recent and can’t be taken for granted, isn’t it?