Anyone else on the edge of their seat after the season finale of “The Handmaid’s Tale” last night?! I have loved this book for years. I first read it in high school. Followed by reading it several times in my 20s. Each time reading it from the lense of a feminist. Margaret Atwood was writing this book while when there was significant environmental disasters taking place in the United States. There are echo’s of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant malfunction in Pennsylvania 1979. We were just starting to become aware of the long term consequences of DDT being used in pesticides all over North America. Clearcutting, excessive use of fossil fuels, degradation of the environment and irresponsible use of natural resources are all influences that contribute to the brilliance of this novel.
This novel was published the year I was born. It holds wisdom and warnings of important environmental themes. Although we have made progress since the 80s in our policies, practices and legislation we still have so much to do. “The chances are one in four, we learned that at the Center. The air got too full, once, of chemicals, rays, radiation, the water swarmed with toxic molecules, all of that takes years to clean up, and meanwhile they creep into your body, camp out in your fatty cells. Who knows, your very flesh may be polluted, dirty as an oily beach, sure death to shore birds and unborn babies. Maybe a vulture would die of eating you… Women took medicines, pills, men sprayed trees, cows ate grass, all that souped-up piss flowed into the rivers. Not to mention the exploding atomic power plants, along the San Andreas fault, nobody’s fault, during the earthquakes, and the mutant strain of syphilis no mold could touch. Some did it themselves, had themselves tied shut with catgut or scarred with chemicals. How could they, said Aunt Lydia, oh how could they have done such a thing? Jezebels!”(Atwood, 139-140)
I’m excited to give this book another read. It is a book that made it through my book purge. A book I come back to again and again. A book that is haunting in how relevant it is 30 years later.