The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood Many refer to the social commentary presented in The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a dystopian novel in the vein of Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984. It’s a critique of feminism. It’s a critique of fundamentalism. It’s layered and complex.

But what struck me most was Atwood’s expression of introspection.

In a disturbing passage where Offred recalls her effort to flee the totalitarianism engulfing her, she’s forced with the reality of leaving her cat.
I’ll take care of it, Luke said. And because he said it instead of her, I knew he meant kill. That is what you have to do before you kill, I thought. You have to create an it, where none was before. You do that first, in your head, and then you make it real. So that’s how they do it, I thought. I seemed to never to have known that before.
Given Offred’s exclusion and isolation throughout the novel, it’s not surprising that Atwood puts an emphasis on her small moments of contemplation. These moments pepper the greater story but do so subtly and without pretension. It’s writing like this that just as subtly highlights my own flaws when I read my own awkward attempts at fiction. Atwood’s Offred carries an assumed ease for perception. It’s almost reminiscent of a child who eagerly discovers the mundane, but by one who has been tried and is now tired and wonders without naiveté.
The night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will, as long as I am quiet. As long as I don’t move. As long as I lie still. The difference between lie and lay. Lay is always passive. Even men used to say, I’d like to get laid. Though sometimes they said, I’d like to lay her. All this is pure speculation. I don’t really know what men used to say. I had only their words for it..

I lie, then, inside the room , under the plaster eye in the ceiling, behind white curtains, between the sheets, neatly as they, and step sideways out of my own time. Out of time. Though this is time, nor am I out of it.
There’s much more to this book than these scattered moments. It’s a science fiction, satiric tour de force. But it’s when Atwood falls back into her poetic sensibilities which I find most compelling. Though Atwood creates her novel as a warning of ideological extremism, I couldn’t help being more alarmed at my own obliviousness. Not at the monitoring of political rhetoric or religious indoctrination. but to the many passing personal moments that go unobserved.