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Did You Know? 7 Facts About ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

In case you haven’t heard, Hulu has made an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and it’s making waves with audiences everywhere. More people are reading the book because of the hype surrounding the series, but there’s a lot to the book that you may not know! Here are 7 facts about The Handmaid’s Tale that’ll only add to your reading experience.


1) Atwood wrote most of the novel on a yellow legal pad!

While she was living in West Berlin (before the wall was torn down) she wrote out The Handmaid’s Tale in longhand on any paper she had lying around, mostly yellow legal pad. She then transcribed what she refers to as her “almost illegible scrawlings” and finished the draft using a typewriter she rented.


2) Her experience living in Germany influenced the book.

In an article for The New York Times she wrote: “Every Sunday the East German Air Force made sonic booms to remind us of how close they were. During my visits to several countries behind the Iron Curtain — Czechoslovakia, East Germany — I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing.” She listed 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 as other influences. 


3) This book was written because she had writer’s block.

Atwood was in the middle of a different novel when she stopped writing it to work on The Handmaid’s Tale. She told The New York Times in 1986, “I was writing another novel and this one kept getting into it and messing it up, and it became obvious that I would never be able to write the novel I was writing unless I wrote this one. So I stopped writing the other one and started writing this one.” 


4) It was originally going to be called Offred.

Before it became the title we all know today, Atwood planned on naming it after the book’s main character. “Offred,” as well as the names of the other handmaids in the book, are named after the commanders they belong to. “Fred” is the first name of the commander, and “Of” denotes ownership, so she is “Of-Fred.”


5) It has never been out of print!

Since it was first published in 1985, the book has sold millions of copies worldwide. Besides the new Hulu series, it has also been adapted to an opera, stage plays, a movie, and more!  


6) The book has been challenged or completely removed from high schools.

Historically, The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most challenged books of all time. Across the United States, it has been challenged or completely banned because of profanity, illicit sex, violence, hopelessness, and statements that are defamatory to God.


7) “The book is not a prediction.”

Atwood says that the book wasn’t meant to be a prediction because that’s impossible. The future has too many variables for it to be perfectly described. She said, “Let’s say it’s an anti-prediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.” 



Featured image courtesy of George Kraychyk/Hulu