Margaret Atwood began writing The Handmaid’s Tale while living in in West Berlin in 1984. The Berlin Wall was still standing then, and the culture of that society can be felt throughout the novel.

But as Atwood herself wrote: ‘It can’t happen here could not be depended upon: anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.’

Walls come down and new ones – literal or otherwise – go up, and there are loud echoes of today’s world in the novel, too. All of which makes these 9 quotes from the book just as fresh and relevant today as they were in the 1980s.

1.    ‘Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.’

2.    ‘I wait. I compose myself. My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born.’

handmaids tale scene

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3.    ‘Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.’

4.     'He was not a monster, to her. Probably he had some endearing trait: he whistled, offkey, in the shower, he had a yen for truffles, he called his dog Liebchen and made it sit up for little pieces of raw steak. How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation.’
 

handmaids tale scene

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5.    ‘I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping.’

6. ‘That was one of the things they do. They force you to kill, within yourself.’
 

handmaids tale scene

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7.    ‘Freedom, like everything else, is relative.’

8.    ‘The problem wasn’t only with the women, he says. The main problem was with the men. . . You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel. . . Do they feel now? I say. Yes, he says, looking at me. They do.’
 

handmaids tale scene

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9.    ‘You can't help what you feel but you can help how you behave.’

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    The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

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    Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a modern classic. Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.

    More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

    Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

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