Atwood and Fronts

There’s a sense, at least when I read Atwood, of a separation between the world she is creating and the world in which we live. That could never happen here. We’re enlightened (whatever that means).

But earlier this week, I was at a meeting with a friend. The details of the meeting aren’t quite important, though they do shed some light on my life choices. However, this particular friend (her identity is also protected) also borrowed my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale at the beginning of the term because I recommended the book.

She said, “The whole meeting reminded me of Handmaid’s Tale.” I knew immediately what she was thinking, even though I hadn’t come up with the idea myself. She was talking about that very fake, very guarded attitude that Offred and Ofglen display when they meet each other. “Yes, this organization is great. I can’t imagine anything else.”

I know that you know that we know this isn’t right.

It’s the same thing we see on social media, but it’s definitely a phenomenon that predates technology. We see it in Atwood, and we see it in children who have learned how to lie. We see it in Merleau-Ponty, and we see it in academic papers that get simply vicious in the footnotes. It’s part of being polite. Being an adult. Being afraid of the consequences of telling the truth.

But the thing is? We’re not actually in a life-or-death situation in a theocracy/oligarchy. I’m not saying that honesty is always the best. But I think the layers upon layers need to stop.


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