‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Author Revealed if the Book Is a Prediction

Like many dystopias, some have interpreted The Handmaid’s Tale book as a prediction of where society is headed. During the late 2010s, Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood discussed if she intended the book as a warning when she penned it in the 1980s. Here’s a look at her nuanced feelings on the topic.

Three of the handmaids talking to Esther in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 | Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ author is asked this question more and more frequently

Around the time Hulu released their version of The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood published an article in The New York Times discussing why she wrote the book in the 1980s and some questions she’s often asked about the book. One of those questions was “Is The Handmaid’s Tale a prediction?” She revealed she’s asked that question more and more often.

“That is the.. question I’m asked — increasingly, as forces within American society seize power and enact decrees that embody what they were saying they wanted to do, even back in 1984, when I was writing the novel,” she wrote. “No, it isn’t a prediction, because predicting the future isn’t really possible: There are too many variables and unforeseen possibilities. Let’s say it’s an antiprediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.”

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During an interview with IndieWire, Amber Dowling asked Atwood if she considered herself a prophet. “Honest, I’m not a prophet,” she replied. “If I were a prophet I would have cleaned up on the stock market years ago.”

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ author says the book and similar books aren’t really about the future

In addition, Atwood dismissed the idea stories set in the future are truly about the future. “Well, all stories about the future are actually about the now,” she told Slate. “However, it’s also true that you generally look ahead of you to see where you’re going and that’s what those kinds of books are like. They’re like blueprints of the possible futures that help us to decide whether that is where we want to go.” 

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Atwood cited George Orwell’s 1984 as an example of this. She said Orwell was using his futuristic book to set a blueprint of what would happen if England became like the contemporary Soviet Union. In the same vein Atwood said she looked at contemporary trends while writing The Handmaid’s Tale and tried to see what the world would look like if these trends continued. 

While The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a future that is definitely very aesthetically different from current America, Atwood said it’s inspired by recent trends. It’s up to readers/viewers to decide how close they think the politics of The Handmaid’s Tale align with contemporary politics. While Atwood doesn’t believe The Handmaid’s Tale is a prediction, the book and the show certainly give fans plenty of food for thought.

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