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Only Ever Yours in Context: The Handmaid’s Tale

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Only Ever Yours is billed as, “The Handmaid’s Tale meets Mean Girls.” I’m not ashamed to admit to a shortness of breath at that. Mean Girls is one of the three funniest movies of all time and The Handmaid’s Tale is capable of creating feminists. High praise and heady company.

I don’t know that it’s entirely accurate, mind you, but it informed my reading. I actually think Only Ever Yours is more cynical than The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, or even 1984.

Still, imagine my delight when it was pointed out tThug Notes Logohat Thug Notes had released their summary and analysis of Margaret Atwood’s classic book only a day before we posted our review. At Thug Notes, you “learn literature from yo’ boy Sparky Sweets, PhD. It’s classic literature, original gangster.” Erin wrote a short introduction to Thug Notes last year and talked about why she uses it in her classes.

Check out “The Handmaid’s Tale = A Whack-Ass Future For Women?” Spoiler warning, just in case.

The Handmaids Tale

You can compare the book blurb with Only Ever Yours

In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….

Both books depict a patriarchal nightmare following an ecological disaster. Atwood offers a complex look at her world through her protagonist’s fragmented memoir. The structure of the novel reflects both her shattered life and resultant mental state. O’Neill aims at a younger audience, but with no less audacity. While Offred is allowed both a past and a future, frieda is confined, literally and narratologically, in her present. The structure of Only Ever Yours, while more straightforward, is similarly representative; frieda’s ability to understand and navigate her environment is defined by its constraints.

I reckon a fan of either book will enjoy the other. But I’ll share the openings of both to give you a sense of what you’re in for. Note that they both begin with communal feminine sleeping quarters.

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone. A balcony ran around the room, for the spectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet taint of chewing gum and perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures, later in miniskirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair. Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest of unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light.The Handmaid’s Tale

The chastities keep asking me why I can’t sleep. I amOnly Ever Yours 2 at the maximum permitted dosage of SleepSound, they say, eyes narrowed in suspicious concern.
Are you taking it correctly, freida?
Are you taking it all yourself, freida?
Yes. Yes. Now, can I have some more? Please? No more can be prescribed. Not safely anyway, they say. They warn of muscle spasms. Internal bleeding. The corrosion of vital organs.
But I cannot see these “vital organs” in the mirrors. All I can see are the dark circles under my eyes, a gray pallor like a dusting of ashes over my face. The hallmarks of too many nights spent burrowing a hole in my mattress, tossing and turning, yearning to join the perfectly synchronized breathing of my sisters. I can hear them now, sucking artificial heat into their lungs greedily, oblivious to me, lying in my cot, buzzing like an exposed wire.Only Ever Yours

 

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