Sales of George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 surged on Amazon after Donald Trump was elected president last November. A debate raged as to whether the American population would be subdued through fear, as in 1984, or sated by pleasure, as in Aldous Huxley’s iconic dystopia, Brave New World. It’s safe to say that since November, dystopia has been in the air.
But with the release of The Handmaid’s Tale, a whole new dystopian narrative is coming to the forefront of the cultural dialogue. The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, envisions America after a religious coup strips women of their rights and codifies them within a stiff hierarchy, largely to wrestle with the rise of infertility. In Gilead, fertile women are leased out as “handmaids” to powerful families.
With some modern touches, Hulu’s adaptation brings Atwood’s novel into shockingly relatable territory. While watching, you just might think: Could this actually happen? Through the introduction of alternate realities, dystopias encourage people to reconsider their present day.
If The Handmaid’s Tale has blown your mind and you’re hungry for more dystopian stories with a focus on women, check out these novels.
The first series of The Handmaid's Tale is shown on Channel 4 on Sundays at 9pm.