In "The Handmaid's Tale", Margaret Atwood tells a saddening story about a not-to-distant future where toxic chemicals and abuses of the human body have resulted in many men and women alike becoming sterile. The main character, Offred, gives a first person encounter about her subservient life as a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a republic formed after a bloody coup against the United States government. She and her fellow handmaids are fertile women that the leaders of Gilead, the Commanders, enslave to ensure their power and the population of the Republic. While the laws governing women and others who are not in control of Gilead seem oppressive, outlandish and ridiculous, they are merely a caricature of past and present laws and traditions of Western civilization. "The Handmaid's Tale" is an accurate and feasible description of what society could be like if a strict and oppressive religious organization gained dominant power over the political system in the United States.
Of course, one does not need to try to predict the future in order to get a picture of what life would be like if such a strict and oppressive religious organization obtained a stranglehold on our political system. The Holy Roman Empire and various kingdoms of the not-to-distant past, ruled by kings appointed by God through birthright, are packed with stories of poor treatment of those who oppose them and have a consistent theme for foul treatment of women.
Few, if any, religious conquests were as gruesome and devastating as the Inquisition. Starting in the 13th century, monarchs from all around Europe, with approval from the Popes during their reigns, anointed inquisitors to track down a certain group of he...
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...omen than men and more stories of women succeeding in business and government, one might think that society has evolved from the mediaeval, torturous times of the Inquisition. However, we mustn't forget that the Inquisition did not end until the early 19th century, and that most Western Civilizations did not make strides towards equal rights for women until the 20th century. "The Handmaid's Tale" is a shivering warning about the brutality that humans can enact upon each other, given the opportunity. Many of the religious sentiments expressed during the story are echoes of today's events. From the Inquisition to toxic waste dumps poisoning hundreds of people in a small town to abortion clinic bombings, some of the outrageous and unbelievable events of "The Handmaid's Tale" have already been taking place for centuries, but are hopefully not a omen of what is to come.
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