Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Flag of Gilead

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is set in a near future where radical right-wing Christians have taken over part of the US and set up their own theocratic state, which they call Gilead. They guard the borders, take rights away from women, and put gays and Jews in work camps. Most people have become infertile, and the Handmaids are fertile women who are used to bear children for elite couples who can't. I don’t remember if the book describes the flag of Gilead, but here’s a good candidate:

This is hanging for real over a Christian bookstore in my town. It has the stripes of the American flag, but the blue field holds only a white fish – the ichthus Christian symbol. I find it a little disturbing.

Sci-fi fans might have missed Atwood’s work of speculative fiction, since her name is not the first that comes to mind when you think of sci-fi authors. It was written in 1985, but it is as pertinent as ever. It’s a good yarn with a lot of interesting ideas.

There is a 1990 movie version of this book, which I have not seen. Despite having some big-name actors like Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, this movie has gotten poor reviews.

IMDB: The Handmaid's Tale

Ebert's Review of the movie


Dave H said...

Thanks for presenting me with an image to haunt my dreams tonight! I'll never understand the perennial drive to link religion and government.

Andrew said...

It is a great book, and very relevant. Among literary visions of a dystopian future, I find hers to be one of the most plausible given current trends.

Unfortunately, the movie was only okay. The openning parts where the prospective handmaids were together were good, but once she went to the commander's house, it took on a cheesy made-for-TV feel that it never got past. I'd love to see someone remake it now.

Rob S. said...

Whatever its faults, the movie turned me on to Margaret Atwood, and I've become a lifelong fan. Have you read The Assassin's Apprentice? It's amazing.

Don said...

I haven't read Assasin's Apprentice, but it's on my list now!