Margaret Atwood's famous dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale, was published in 1985. The Handmaid's Tale has been awarded for two times, the Governor General's Award in 1985 and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987. It has been adapted to film in 1990.This novel depicts a woman's personal tragedy and women in subjugation in a totalitarian theocratic state called The Republic of Gilead.
The Bible, especially The Book of Genesis gave Margaret Atwood an inspiration for the some principles of the Republic of Gilead, for example, the story of Rachel and Leah and the story of the infertile Sarah and Hagar. The "Gilead" is means "hill of testimony" or "mount of witness and is also taken from Genesis.
The story is about Handmaid Offred in the Republic of Gilead, theocratic state ruled by conservative Christians through Biblical fundamentalism based on harsh interpretation of the Old Testament. Everyone who does not threaten the ideology of Gilead is executed by hanging. Gilead's women are stripped of their freedom, they have no rights and they are only possessive items who belong to the men. They are not allowed to read, write or educate or to own property, chose their clothes, control money. It is considered that sex is degrading to women, men have to abstain from all but marital sex for religio-social reasons.
It's an age of declining birth, many babies are killed because of physical defects caused by the ecological disasters.
In this novel gender roles are defined .People are categorized and distinguished by sex, occupations and caste. The Handmaids are fertile women, accused to have committed sexual crimes and whose purpose is only to have babies. They are personal slaves of Commanders, highly placed party men, who take them to bear their children, like in Biblical times. The Handmaids can ever be raped by Commanders, but if they make such accusation, she is not believed and sent away. They spend a maximum of two years in a particular household. If they don't get pregnant after attempts with three commanders, they are punished and exiled to the colonies, places with toxic levels pollution where they will do hard jobs and where they will die early. If they get pregnant, they will never be deported.
The protagonist with proven fertility is forced to become handmaid and was separated from her husband and her daughter who is taken away to be raised by another family. She is now a handmaid in the home of the commander Fred and his wife Serena and has to bear a child for them. She got a name Offred, which means that she belongs to commander Fred. She must pray to get pregnant because it's her only purpose in that state.
She thinks about her husband, about happy life with him, about her daughter, about the time when she had a job, money of her;
Every theme of the Handmaid's tale, the mistreatment of women, the killing of innocent babies for the good of the state, the racist beliefs and actions, can be found in recent past or in recent present in Pakistan, Iran, Afganistan, Bahrain and similar South Asia countries.