Decks Used: Refine & Play Tarot, Red Thread Oracle
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985) is a dystopian novel set in a near-future New England, where the patriarchal and totalitarian Republic of Gilead has overthrown the U.S. Government.
Narrated by a woman known as Offred, a handmaid forcibly assigned to produce offspring for one of the republic’s Commanders, the story centers on her personal struggle to come to terms with the dissonance between what was and what is. Throughout the novel, Offred copes with that dissonance by imagining different scenarios – by turns, hopeful and fearful, resilient and resigned – for what may have happened to people she once knew, and for what may happen in her life moving forward.
The things I believe can’t all be true, though one of them must be. But I believe in all of them, all three versions of Luke, at one and the same time. This contradictory way of believing seems to me, right now, the only way I can believe anything. Whatever the truth is, I will be ready for it.
This also is a belief of mine. This also may be untrue.The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (Ch. 18)
The continual telling and retelling of certain events – how they went or how they might have gone, how they are going or might go or will go – left me thinking about the way we make sense of the present through our understanding of the past. What we understood about the past while seeing it through our past eyes can be very different from what we understand when looking at it afresh with our present eyes. And so, it is through continual reassessment, and continual refinement of our personal narrative, that we come to terms with where we’ve been, where we are, and ultimately, where we are going.
Spread Position Meanings:
1 – Then: A card to represent the situation as it existed then, before the change at issue.
2 – Now: A card to represent the situation as it exists now, after the change at issue.
3 & 4 – Fears & Hopes Then: The fears and hopes you held then, before the change at issue.
5 – Reality/Lesson: The reality of the situation then and/or the lesson to be learned from the change.
6 & 7 – Fears & Hopes Now: The fears and hopes you’re holding now, after the change at issue.
8 – Reality/Advice: The reality of the situation now and/or advice for how to move forward.
Oracle cards may be used as signifiers in place of cards 1 & 2 or as focus point(s) for the reading overall, as shown below.
For more on Atwood’s novel:
- “Margaret Atwood on How She Came to Write The Handmaid’s Tale: The Origin Story of an Iconic Novel” – “Some books haunt the reader. Others haunt the writer. The Handmaid’s Tale has done both.”
- “The Art of Becoming Ordinary: An Analysis of The Handmaid’s Tale“ by Kaity Sharp – “Gilead should not be considered ordinary, but Margaret Atwood succeeds in making the reader believe that “ordinary” is exactly what the dystopia of Gilead could become.”
- “Offred’s Complicity and the Dystopian Tradition in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale“ by Allan Weiss – “One of the major areas of debate among scholars of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is the question of Offred’s heroism. Is she a valiant rebel challenging the regime’s domination and oppression? Or is she a powerless victim of Gilead’s oppression? Or is she instead a willing or unwitting participant in the regime?”
- “Women Disunited: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as a Critique of Feminism” by Alanna L. Callaway – “While there is plenty of traditional feminist critique of male power structures in Atwood’s works, and particularly in The Handmaid’s Tale, this thesis argues that the power structure of Gilead (the biblically-inflected nation Atwood imagines) also critiques the feminine roles that support and enable the repression of other women.”