On The Handmaid’s Tale by Caitlin Cullina

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. 

This is my favorite quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I just finished reading over Thanksgiving break. It is about having strength and perseverance, in times of terrible crisis.

The novel is set in a future where the birth rates are so low that an entirely new society is created for reproducing. It is a giant step backwards from all the freedoms of today. And the story is told from the point of view of a young handmaid, she is essentially a vessel for children and that is one of her only purposes. The plot is difficult to explain because the hierarchy of this strange world is very complex, but it is essentially how this woman survives. It also includes memories of the protagonist’s life before the new lifestyle was implemented, and how her it changed as she transitioned into being a handmaid. 

I really enjoyed reading the novel, though it was strange how realistic Atwood made each circumstance seem. There are so many themes and motifs that are timeless, like what the definition of liberty is and what each person’s purpose in life is and where is the life between safety and privacy. It was almost haunting, especially in today’s political climate, reading about rights being stripped away from the people.

I would definitely recommend this book to other people, even if they don’t usually like dystopian types of novels. It seemed far more plausible than some other futuristic sci-fi novels that I’ve read in the past. It reminds me of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. Which is a fantastic book about an alternate path of history in which Charles Lindbergh became the President of the United States as the Nazis rose to power. Both of them gave me the chills but it was so interesting to think of how small things can change the world so entirely. It also makes me wonder about the authority to take away human rights, and how those changes can be justified. 

Body Image by Sophie Browner

“I wore a tight one piece bathing suit under my clothes every single day of 6th and 7th grade to make myself look thinner.” “One time I wrapped my stomach in saran wrap before bed, hoping to wake up with a smaller waist.” “Back in only 3rd grade a guy told me my arms looked hairy like a monkey, and from then on I really switched from just not being aware, to realizing it was a ‘bad thing.'”  “I am 120 pounds and 5’9, and I have always been underweight; but I feel like I have been taught that it’s better to think you’re fat than it is to be happy with your body.” These stories are not glamorous, they are not feminist propaganda, and they are not from a small minority group. These are stories of real people who walk the halls of Shaker Heights High School. These stories are important. 
Right now in English class, I am writing a research paper about the factors that affect body image throughout adolescence for females. I have been asking friends to share personal experiences or stories about their body/self confidence during middle school years. With each line that is sent to me, my heart grows more and more heavy. I have caught onto the simple pattern that everyone has something. As small as a comment that some jerk made in 3rd grade, to skipping meals, or anywhere in between, these experiences have lasting effects on how we see ourselves. Yes, it is an absolutely terrible phenomenon that so many people tell such a similar heartbreaking story. However at the same time, I think that it is comforting knowing that nobody is really alone in this struggle. By telling our own stories, along with current body positivity movements and progressive ads in the media, we are working toward a more accepting and self loving society.