“Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”
This sagely observation that Margaret Atwood made in her 1985 book, The Handmaid’s Tale, was all too true after the 2016 US election when women took to the streets (in 2017) to protest against President Donald Trump’s governance, which made many feel like they were living in Atwood’s dystopian world, Gilead.
Handmade signs that said, “Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again” surfaced overnight, and The Handmaid’s Tale came back in conversations, editorials, and public consciousness as the realisation sunk in all of us, that the world we live in today, have many uncomfortable similarities with the totalitarian regime that took over America in Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
The author herself, not only joined in on these conversations but also took it a step further. Atwood recently announced a sequel of the critically acclaimed book, which will be released 34 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, on 10 September 2019, just in time for the 2020 US election.
Introducing the sequel to her devout fans, the author wrote on her website:
“I am writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale for publication on 10 September 2019. The Testaments is set 15 years after Offred’s final scene in The Handmaid’s Tale and is narrated by three female characters.
Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”
While this announcement has her fans all excited, some have also expressed fear, asking the author on social media if the upcoming book will follow the plot of Hulu’s miniseries that was initially based on The Handmaid’s Tale but has now gone ahead of it. Atwood, however, has reassured everyone saying, “Fear not. It is a surprise.” and on her website has clearly stated there is no connection with the TV series and the sequel.
One of the most exciting things to look forward to, as far as The Testaments is concerned is the fact that we will finally know what happened to Offred. If you have read the book, you will remember, that Offred which is not the real name of the protagonist, is a handmaid. Her primary function in Gilead is to procreate. She is supposed to bear children for the upper section of the society, which happens through an impregnation ceremony.
But, she finds herself getting involved with a chauffeur named Nick, which is strictly forbidden, and if discovered can cost her life. Nick also serves the same family as she does. Offred believes that Nick is a part of a resistance movement against the oppressive regime. The story of offred ends in the second last chapter of the book, as Nick and Offred’s relationship is discovered and she is being taken to a van by Nick, which may take her to the colonies, where she will be forced to clean up radioactive waste till she dies, or it is Nick’s way of getting her out of Gilead, which is what he says that he is doing. We never really get to know whether she escaped the place or not because the narrative from Offred’s perspective ends here. But, hopefully, now we will get our answers in the sequel.
What can also be expected from The Handmaid’s Tale sequel is a microscopic glance of the current world we live in, so that we ‘notice’ that dystopia isn’t only in Atwood’s novel, we experience it more often then we care to accept. We actively ignore it, and as Atwood said it in The Handmaid’s Tale,
“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”