Admittedly this post is a week late. Banned Book Week has pasted and I've had some extra time to sit and think about censorship and its affects on the literary world. This year in an attempt to finish to classic dystopian novel series (My name for the likes of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, ext) I picked up Margeret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.
The Handmaid's Tale is set in a America, now the Republic of Gilead, in the not to distance future. Society has been forced into roles. There are Martha's, who function as cooks as maids, Eyes that become secret police, Commanders and their Wives make up the higher class. Then there are the Handmaids, woman whos sole purpose it is to give birth.
Atwood's story about a drastically changed America has been challenged
for reasons like sex, violence, profanity and anti christian overtones.
I can't deny that The Handmaid's Tale includes all of these elements. Actually, that's kind of the point. In this wreck of society fertile woman are essentially imprisoned and forced to be breed in a particularly humiliating way. The story paints this as a throw back to traditional values. So why isn't everyone happy? The answer is complex. It's about freedom, and the role of government and how this effects a population on an individual level.
Like the aforementioned classic dystopian works, which have also been challenged, Handmaid's Tale looks into society and pulls out a funhouse mirror. This may not be reality, and it may not be the future, but it could be, and that should make people think. That's why this entire genre has become such a goldmine in today's publishing market. It's important for readers to be critical, to think about the world they're living in. That's why it's important that these challenges never move past that stage. The Handmaid's Tale may not be appropriate for a 9th grade English class but for a mature student it's content could really further their education.