Atwood Hints At A Brighter Future In 'Handmaid' Sequel 'The Testaments'

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Now that it feels like we're living in a society that I find myself thinking of as "Gilead lite," how could The Testaments, Margaret Atwood's highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, possibly convey the same degree of shock as its predecessor? The answer is, it can't. When The Handmaid's Tale was published in 1985, American women's reproductive rights seemed relatively secure and global climate change was relegated to disaster movies. But the barren and repressive fundamentalist regime of the Republic of Gilead (formerly most of the United States) that Atwood summoned up so vividly in The Handmaid's Tale has turned out to be not so outlandish after all; hence, the popularity of the current Hulu series starring Elisabeth Moss as the handmaid, Offred. While The Handmaid's Tale may not be an exact reflection of "how we live now," it no longer feels as reassuringly improbable as it once did. In The Testaments, Atwood explicitly wears the mantle that The Handmaid's Tale conferred upon her: that is, literary social critic and seer extraordinaire. A curious difference between the two novels, however, is that, rather than taking readers on another descent into nightmare, Atwood here foresees the possibility of hope: hope that the forces of resistance and sisterhood will eventually triumph over misogyny, power-mongering and the despoiling of the planet. It may take a century or two, Atwood cautions, to reach the light at the end of the Gilead tunnel, but reach it we will.