Stories of speculative fiction, especially dystopian novels, are extremely popular right now. As fundamental rights are called into question, looking at quotes from The Handmaid’s Tale can be helpful and provocative. Turning to literature in a time of confusion is certainly nothing new, but the fact thatboth Margaret Atwood's novel and George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four have recently toppedbest-selling charts speaks to the fears of readers in the United States.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which was originally published in 1985, can help readers understand certain gender issues that concern us today. Atwood’s tale is set in a totalitarian theocracy wherein women have no agency. Told in first person by the main character Offred, the story explores themes of subjugation by gender, policing of the female body, religion, and resistance. Through Offred’s narrative of complete enslavement, we can look at the ways human rights are in danger today. The hyperbolic exploration of gender and control gives readers a framework to discuss the future of basic rights in a changing world.
Whether you are looking to these quotes for guidance, inspiration, comfort, or information, The Handmaid’s Tale is a story that is important to remember in the coming years. Here are some quotes that are particularly relevant today.
1“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
2“Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.”
3“I am not your justification for existence.”
4“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”
5“You can't help what you feel but you can help how you behave.”
6“There's always something to occupy the inquiring mind.”
7“Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.”
8“I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.”
9“The world is full of weapons if you're looking for them.”
10“What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.”
11“I am alive, I live, I breathe, I put my hand out, unfolded, into the sunlight.”
12“I wait. I compose myself. My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born”
13“Freedom, like everything else, is relative.”
14“I sink down into my body as into a swamp, fenland, where only I know the footing…. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping. Inside it is a space, huge as the sky at night and dark and curved like that, though black-red rather than black.”
15“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don't let the bastards grind you down.”
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, $8.69, Amazon