Topical Books: It Can’t Happen Here and The Handmaid’s Tale

I read It Can’t Happen Here and then immediately started The Handmaid’s Tale. I am now in a heightened state of paranoia and will immediately read some light-hearted beach reads. Here are quick overviews of both books:

It Can’t Happen Here was written in 1935 by Sinclair Lewis. It tells the story of a popular politician, Buzz Windrip, and his meteoric rise to President. Buzz owes his success to the fact that he makes ludicrous promises to the American’s who he is trying to appeal to: the working class (sound familiar?). This similarity to modern times has created an interest in the book today (I was one of 62 in a queue to get the book out from my local library). Once Buzz takes over, he quickly forms his own army, called the Minute Men, and thus he is able to exert full authoritarian control. The main protagonist, Dorms Jessup, is a journalist who tries to flee to Canada and then joins the revolutionary forces opposing Windrip. Honestly though, this book was so boring I can’t even remember how it ends. I finished it less than a month ago…

 

The Handmaid’s Tale was written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. There is also a brand new Hulu series which is amazing (but very disturbing). In the Handmaid’s Tale, it has been three years since an unknown group of radical Americans shot and killed the President and all of Congress. They then remove the constitution in the name of safety for the populace. The heroine, Offred, used to be a normal woman: living and working in Boston with her husband and young daughter. The revolution brought numerous restrictions to women’s lives. Women could no longer work or spend any money. Offered is taken away from her family and sent to a stranger’s home to act as the womb for a powerful couple who cannot have children.

Margaret Atwood wrote the foreword to my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale in February of 2017. I think I shall let her finish out this post:

“In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere-many, I would guess-are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can. Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall? Let us hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust it will not.”

-A

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