“The Handmaid’s Tale” was so prescient that Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel

What kind of world are we living in?
What kind of world are we living in?
Image: Hulu/George Kraychyk
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Margaret Atwood’s bestselling dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 and 33 years later, the story about women struggling for their rights remains as relevant as ever. Atwood announced today (Nov. 28) that a long-awaited sequel, to be named The Testaments, partially inspired by “the world we’ve been living in,” will be published in September 2019.

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a totalitarian US dystopia called Gilead where women are systematically oppressed and fertile females, called “handmaids,” are forced into sexual servitude. The protagonist, Offred, is one such handmaid, and The Testaments takes place 15 years after her final scene in the original.

Atwood’s novel has seen a resurgence in recent years. One factor is the critically acclaimed Hulu adaptation that premiered in 2017 (season three is in the works, but The Testaments will deviate from the TV series). Atwood has also said that Donald Trump’s presidential election in 2016, as well as his views on abortion, have boosted sales of The Handmaid’s Tale. Women around the world have taken to wearing the handmaid’s signature red costume during protests against the Trump administration—a clear signal that accuses the US president of building an oppressive regime, not unlike Gilead.

While Atwood has said that the “inner workings” of Gilead inspired the upcoming sequel, she mentions that the state of today’s world was also influential. And with a title like The Testaments, the testimonies of women that fueled the #MeToo movement and those that have surfaced since inevitably come to mind.

Atwood says the sequel will be narrated by three women, although there is no indication whether or not Offred will be one of them. Will their narration come from a place of triumph, looking back retrospectively at a harrowing world they changed? Or will it come from a place of despair, because they are still living under a tyrannical regime? We will have to wait until September 2019 to find out, but until then, watching the world that inspired The Testaments is compelling enough.