The Handmaid's Tale
Dystopian Novels in a Cruel World
Camus wrote that “the world is ugly and cruel, but it is only by adding to that ugliness and cruelty that we sin most gravely”.
Dystopian novels can be both a mirror and a magnifying glass, reflecting our world and exaggerating aspects of it to create their nightmarish realities. However, much dystopian fiction does not intend to simply add to the ugliness and cruelty present in the world. In fact its aim is entirely opposite- to warn against the grave “sin” Camus describes. By observing a fictional universe, we are shown what could become of our own existence if these warnings are not heeded. The barren desolation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the totalitarian oppression of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are merely extensions of modern humanity. In spite of the dystopian nature of both novels, also present are the key themes of love and humanity. It is this degree of hope that allows both works to be taken as warnings, rather than nothing more than nihilistic prophecies of doom. Both written in the West in the modern era, the novels, and their readers, concentrate on the key issues of the day, such as the environmental problems facing the world and humanity’s increasingly questioned relationship with God....
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