The Handmaid's Tale was quite an interesting book to read. At times it was a difficult read for me, as it jumped around a lot and I found it hard to keep my concentration on the story. In the end I enjoyed the story overall and found it pretty fascinating how a society could change so drastically without the people revolting against it. Scary.
Even though the rampant infertility is acknowledged to be largely due to environmental pollution, Gilead refuses to acknowledge the possibility of male infertility; if a Handmaid is unable to conceive with three Commanders, it is assumed that she is at fault and she is reassigned to the Colonies. How did this double standard resonate with you, if at all?
This really bothered me both in the book and the fact that in our society the majority of people assume that if a couple is having trouble conceiving that it is a problem with the female. It's always, "oh she can't get pregnant". My RE's office is in the Women's Health wing of a medical university, perpetuating this belief. What bothers me the most about infertility being seen as primarily a women's health issue is that it is because of this fact that I believe it is largely ignored by society, and insurance companies. If, in our mostly male dominated society, infertility was seen as also being a men's health issue it would probably receive more research dollars, and I personally think it would be more widely covered by insurance companies.
In one scene (it's after midnight and we all have different editions, but you know the one I mean without a page number, right?) Offred observes a funeral procession for a miscarried pregnancy. Comment on the inclusion of this type of ritual in the daily life of the community.
I think that this ritual was included in the community because of the importance they placed on pregnancies, and also to use as another way to remind the Handmaid's what happens to them if they aren't able to conceive a child for the Commanders and the Wives. Having been through miscarriage, I wished when reading the book, that our society placed a bit more importance on pregnancies, just not in the exact same way as the book. Pregnancies in our society are viewed as replaceable, expendable, etc. How many people say that you can just try again after you lose a baby? Like our pregnancies and children can be replaced by new ones. Maybe if our society viewed them with more significance then women suffering miscarriage would find more emotional support.
For all that the Handmaids are supposed to be serving the society's greater good and should be honored for that, they are looked down upon by just about everyone. Wives resent that the Handmaids do what they cannot, Marthas resent the time spent caring for them, Econowives resent them for the ease of existence they feel the Handmaids must enjoy. And the reverse is true as well, Handmaids resent the other women for having little freedoms they do not enjoy, whether it's control over a household, the ability to hold a knife and make radish roses, or to simply not be a possession without a name. Does this mutual resentment exist in the world of infertility? Do "fertiles" resent "infertiles" and vice versa? If so, in what way?
At first when I read this question I thought No Way! Why in the world would a fertile person resent me. What part of my life are they envious of? The frequent doctor visits, the invasive procedures, the emotional pain of losing my baby? But then I really started to think more about it and I do think that mutual resentment exists. I definitely resent fertile people, some much more than others, for the ease at which they achieved their dreams, for their naive joyful views of pregnancy, for the granted they sometimes take their families for. I think there are also some people who are fertile who resent me for not being able to have had children yet. Some people have commented on how they would love a day to just relax with their husbands, or a date night out with them, or being able to read a book. And, I think that some of these people are actually quite sincere in that they do wish that we could trade places even if only for a day.
Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler (with author participation!)