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Covers for the Handmaid’s Tale

2009 March 29
by Marwa

Reading Farhat’s post “The Handmaid’s Tale – a Poster Gone Wrong” I went back to the images that we were shown in class when we first discussed the book. The images are right below. The first is the book cover, the second is (if I remember right) a cover that was used by a PhD student in her dissertation, and the third is, of course, the cover of the movie.

I agree with Farhat about the poster for the movie (the bottom image) – it does not do justice to Atwood’s message in the book at all. In the book, we read about the oppression in the society. The clothing the handmaids are forced to wear, which is described in detail, gives us an even clearer picture of the oppression that they feel. In the movie cover, however, the handmaids are sexualized and the clothing is barely there. Skin is exposed in a way that was never suggested in the book. The book has its own cover (the top image) that shows two handmaids walking in what looks almost like a dungeon. We see the two handmaids from far away, so it’s hard to understand their clothing very well. To me it seems like the wings are not exactly where they are supposed to be – they are supposed to limit their peripheral view, but it looks like they are above the handmaids’ heads in the picture. I think I like the image used in the PhD dissertation (the middle image) the most. Not only do the wings seem to be more in place, I feel like it explains so much about the atmosphere and oppression as well. The handmaid is sitting by herself, in a room that seems to have close to nothing. I can feel her loneliness from the image. I can feel the oppression. She is sitting there doing nothing, probably with thoughts running through her head, and that is what the book had mostly – a narration of her thoughts. I wish the movie used a cover similar to that, one that is more oppressed than sexual.

One Response
  1. March 30, 2009

    Just to add in one more cover to consider. The book cover that can be found in the Handmaid’s Tale Wikipedia article is really interesting.
    I don’t know how to embed a picture in a comment so i’ll just paste in the link.

    It’s a distorted/put together picture of an older/more misshapen man holding on to a younger/more classical-looking nude female. The contrast between the man and the woman makes the latter appear as a doll. I feel like that feeling of loss of control, something off, and doll-like quality make for a good cover for the book. It plays with the power dynamics more.

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