I read The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986, the book itself a new addition to my high school library. At the time I regarded it, much like 1984, a nice little escape into one world not my own. After all, thought my high school self, this will never happen, we know better now.
Many years later I wince at my idealism. I have Serena Joy many times. She’s the Catholic Women’s League member back at my old parish; she’s the Evangelical homeschooling her kids and on it goes.
It’s time to go back to Gilead, idealism mostly dead, pragmatically knowing things don’t die, and it’s up to us to contend with them once they come up.
The Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale could not have been more timely, and therefore chilling. “In February, the book overtook George Orwell’s 1984 on the Amazon best-seller list. Texas is Gilead and Indiana is Gilead and now that Mike Pence is our vice president, the entire country will look more like Gilead, too.”
In The New Republic, Sara Jones (a former fundamentalist Christian whose education prepared her for a life of tending home and making babies and obeying a husband) writes about The Handmaid’s Tale, how its world could not exist without conservative women — represented in the book by the character Serena Joy — and what it ultimately means for those women’s lives.
America is rich in Serena Joys. One need look no further for her contemporary counterparts than Michelle Duggar and her daughters; or Paula White, the televangelist who allegedly led Donald Trump to Christ
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