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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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The Handmaid’s Tale

Writers Quote Wednesday: Are there any questions?

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Are there any questions?

To some, this might just be an ordinary statement of inquiry. But to those who have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, these four words carry too much weight.

Originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel takes readers to the fictional Republic of Gilead. It follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander and his wife. In an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only for their capability to procreate. They are held prisoners — stripped off their past and future. They are forbidden to read, write, or interact with the outside world. They are meant only to bear children for their assigned commander and failure to do so warrants death.

The book ends with Professor Pieixoto’s final line, Are there any questions? To me this seems a rhetorical question asked not to get an answer but instead to emphasize a point. It forces us to question our role as witnesses, both of Offred’s tale and of our own history of oppression.

Do we forget and stay silent? Do we remain neutral and indifferent? Do we stand up and fight?

There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

You! Yes, you. As The Handmaid’s Tale becomes grimly relevant these days, would you ask a question?

You! Yes, you.

You! Yes, you.

You who are probably wearing a little black dress or a loose shirt and skinny jeans or your grandmother’s overalls.

Yes, you.

I want you to know that you can spit them now. Your hatred, your frustration, your anger. You are not a refugee from the past. You are here, now – breathing, living.

When you happen to pass a dark alley and you hear the whistle of lust, it’s okay to fight your might. Do not allow that man to define you in fragments. Skin, neck, legs, breasts and thighs— as if you are a piece of meat that can be pulled apart. I will join you in particicution for we are more than the gates of heaven that opens in one thrust. We are capable of giving them hell.

But, remember, you are also free to take flight. It is not your fault to tremble and feel your body shake. When the outside world and your mind are in equal darkness, it’s okay to cry. This world is cruel and respect is nothing but an amputated speech. I understand your distrust.

I’ve heard it too, passed on to me in soundless words with their lips hardly moving. Yes, they do not touch us but their eyes take off our clothes faster than their hands do. They claim respect but they reduce our worth to the size of an hourglass, a number, a measurement, a color. A rape joke with a disclaimer “do not take it personal”.

You! Yes, you.

Spit it out, that acrid taste of misogyny and sexism. Be angry and be frustrated because this is not what you deserve. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

MS


This one’s inspired by Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a harrowing story chronicling women’s struggle and survival set in a strict patriarchal society. The book is more that just a dystopian classic, it’s a warning to a not-so-distant future.

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