handmaid

THE HANDMAID'S TALE | MARGARET ATWOOD
First published: 1985 | Takes place: Unspecified
By the turn of the millennium, the People's Republic of Cambridge has become the theocratic Republic of Gilead, where men are men and women are either infertile wives or nameless babymakers. Titular handmaid Offred, when not being involuntary inseminated, waddles around Gilead in a red habit and a white winged quasi-wimple.

Harvard Square is a lot less fun these days. Young men in fascist uniforms shoot you for any suspected indiscretion. The Brattle's gone, replaced by a store where women — now basically chattel ever since an infertility crisis paved the way for a fundie takeover — order dresses color-coded to their rank. All the other boutiques have been shut down. The best store is called Soul Scrolls, a chain where prayers are printed out and recited by a mechanized system something like a player piano. There aren't any printed signs, since women are forbidden to read.

First Parish Church is a Puritan museum. Harvard has been repurposed as a nightmare government complex. Mass executions take place in the football stadium and on the library steps. The wall around Harvard Yard is outfitted with sentries, floodlights, and barbed wire; bodies of the executed hang from hooks. Inside, the lecture halls house the Gilead secret police, called Eyes.

On the upside, the sidewalks are much cleaner than they used to be.

EW

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