Literature Vs. Adaptation – The Handmaids Tale, ‘Blessed Be Our Screens’


The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favourites, both on page and screen. Hulu’s adaptation certainly does Margaret Atwood’s 1985 masterpiece justice, winning 14 Emmy Awards and 2 Golden Globes. For those who don’t know, the novel is centred around Offred, a handmaid in Gilead, a dystopian American society where women are the property of the state and serve as sex slaves for the elite; she is determined to overthrow the regime and regain her freedom. There are currently 3 seasons, yet only the first remains faithful to the novel with the second and third seasons continuing Offred’s rebellion and Gilead’s totalitarian regime. The bestselling story thrives on screen, making it an incredibly successful adaptation.

Offred, portrayed by Elisabeth Moss, is one of the most famous and interesting characters of 20th Century literature, (a personal favourite of mine) and the TV adaptation shines a brighter light on her character’s different facets. We learn more and more about her as the narrative strays further from the novel. Season 1 does not deviate from the original story and lays a solid foundation for the seasons that follow. Readers will know that the novel ends rather abruptly and we are left in the dark about what’s in store for Offred, therefore following seasons will definitely satisfy the fans desperate need to know what happens next.

Season 2 and 3 and its extrapolating storylines delve deeper into Offred’s maternal instinct that is so intrinsic to her character and her position as a leader among the handmaids. As the narrative further unravels, Offred’s story arc is not the only one we see develop. The series presents us with deeper details about the nature, intentions and perspective of some of the other characters like The Commander, Mrs Waterford, Aunt Lydia and Offred’s husband Luke. The TV adaptation allows us to get to know those characters better, and ultimately, these story arcs of fundamental secondary characters can be better fulfilled in later seasons and the varying focus on other characters makes for a multidimensional tale, one that fans of the novel will thoroughly enjoy. 

Season 4 is currently in development and it’s release has unfortunately been pushed back due to COVID-19 so fans will have to wait until 2021 to find out Offred’s fate. Offred and Gilead’s ongoing narrative will also be a significant segue and launching platform for the TV adaptation of The Testaments, Atwood’s sequel published in 2019, that is also said to be in the works and will surely complete the narrative of Offred and Gilead’s oppressive regime. It’s a perfect read to satisfy the desperate cravings many impatient fans will experience, now more acutely thanks to the push back of production. 

I’d wholeheartedly recommend The Handmaid’s Tale whether you’re a die-hard fan of the novel, who has been living under a rock somehow, or are just in need of an excuse to procrastinate. It’s one of the best television adaptations I’ve seen, a story so relevant to the issues of feminism and women’s rights today – a must watch for any literature or film student. 



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3rd year english student, can be found reading a dystopia or playing an oldies but goldies playlist on repeat

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