YMMV / The Handmaid's Tale

  • Anvilicious: Religious fundamentalism can be just as oppressive as other forms of tyranny, and women deserve to be treated as equals.
  • Fridge Logic: The majority of the men in this society are a) armed and b) do not expect to have a chance at a woman — read: any legal sexual outlet whatsoever — unless they're really, really lucky because those government-run brothels are only for the high-ranking members of the government and foreign officials. Gilead shouldn't have lasted seven weeks, let alone seven years.
    • It's mentioned that some soldiers are hanged for "gender treachery" (i.e. turning to homosexual sex, probably due to this), but that just means a revolt should have been even likelier.
    • In addition, there's never any hint of action from the rest of the world regarding this- considering that any non-white, non-male, non-...whatever denomination of Christianity Gilead practices individual is either persecuted or executed, there must be some outcry from the rest of the world. At the very least, the UN would be giving the Republic of Gilead major sanctions for human rights violations.
    • Fridge Logic is easily explained by having an Unrealiable Narrator and the fact that it's highly implied throughout the book that the Republic is lying about almost everything to maintain some sort of semblance of function.
    • Odds are good that there's a lot of unreported rape and harassment of Marthas going on, that the Marthas don't report because they know they'd be blamed for their own assaults.
  • Nightmare Fuel
    • A snippet from the book.
      "But WHOSE fault was it?"
      "Her fault. Her fault. Her fault."
      "WHO led them on?"
      "She did. She did. She did."
      "And why would God allow such a terrible thing to happen?"
      "Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson."
      • Now factor this in: they were talking about a 14-year old girl being gang-raped.
    • The Colonies. You really don't want to be sent there. They're used for cleaning up nuclear waste until they die from the radiation poisoning. It's basically gulags. At one point Moira tells Offred that her mother ended up there (she saw her in a propaganda video) and when Offred expresses relief since she thought her mother was dead, Moira simply says "She might as well be. You should wish it for her." Also hinted is that "the Children of Ham" (black people), who are supposedly sent to "national homelands" (a la South Africa) may in fact be suffering extermination.
      • While we learn the (possible) fates of the black and Jewish populations, there is no mention of other ethnic or religious groups. What about the Asian, Middle Eastern, First Nation, etc, groups? We don't know, but we can imagine that it was horrifying.
      • In the book, it's mentioned that "the Children of Ham" are being sent to their homeland in North Dakota.
    • The whole concept of being a Handmaid. You're forcibly indoctrinated (including such charming little exercises as the one shown above) and then passed around the upper echelons of the military as a brood mare. Your very name is taken away from you, to be replaced with the designation of whatever man currently owns you, e.g. Offred, Ofwayne. You're blamed if you're not fertile, even though it's most likely the men who own and use you that are sterile, and the Wives resent or even hate you regardless. If you don't manage to get pregnant with three successive households, you're declared defective and packed off to the colonies to die of radiation poisoning or slave labour. If you do actually manage to get pregnant and carry the child to term, it's removed from you except for feeding times and, as soon as it's weaned, you're bundled off to another family to start the whole miserable process all over again. And while you're given a sop of never being sent to the colonies if you bear a live, healthy baby, there's always the possibility that the baby's a "shredder", born with a mental or physical defect that only appears later. You will never be safe.
    • Particicution, where the women vent their frustrations on male "criminals" (in one case a political dissenter) by ripping him to pieces with their bare hands. During that scene in the book, Janine, who's had at least two "shredder" babies finally loses her shit and wanders around with a bloody chunk of the person's scalp in her hand and a vacant grin on her face.
      • The epilogue theorizes that Gileadean society came up with the custom of Particicution not just to get rid of unwanted elements (they had the Wall for that), but expressly to provide a stress outlet for otherwise terribly oppressed Handmaids, to the point where instead of just having one in the rare case the occasion arose, after a while they started to hold them on every equinox and solstice, that is 4 times a year.
    • In the beginning of the film, there were women ruled as infertile being led into trucks and cells previously used for livestock (one soldier just crossed out the "Livestock" and wrote "116" and the Female Biological Symbol). There was one woman screaming "you made a mistake!" and the screams made it all the more jarring.
    • Offred doesn't know what happened to her husband and her daughter, especially considering that before the rise of Gilead, the reader learns that a crazy woman tried to take Offred's baby daughter from Offred's shopping cart when Offred had her back turned to get something off the shelves. Yikes.
    • The fact that the entire premise — a takeover by religious fundamentalists, the utter loss of rights for women — is inspired by true events. Iran had been developing into a secular country over the 20th century, but in the 1970s made a complete turnaround. Since then Iranian women have had to live under a barrage of restrictions, including laws about how they dress, though thankfully they still have access to education.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: At the time, enslaved women being forced to bear the children of wealthier couples is seen as incredibly dystopian. Fast forward thirty years and surrogate mothers in Third World countries, carrying the babies of wealthy white parents as their only viable source of income, are in much the same position as the fictional handmaids.
  • Sci-Fi Ghetto: Margaret Atwood insists the book is Speculative Fiction, but not Science Fiction. "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen." The book won the first Arthur C. Clarke award in 1987.
    • There are signs that Atwood's mellowed since then and the book is taught in University literature courses at least in Canada, France and the Netherlands.