Margaret Atwood was under your eye the whole time in The Handmaid’s Tale, and you (probably) didn’t even notice.
Of course, you’d be forgiven for missing her: the hit dystopian drama – adapted from Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name – makes for harrowing viewing (even more so when you consider the fact it’s based on real-life events) and, as such, requires our utmost concentration.
In the very first episode, we watched and listened intently as Offred (Elisabeth Moss) recalled the dawn of Gilead: she was a free woman, with a husband, and child, and life of her own, when the Aunts – wielding cattle prods - ushered into the Red Centre for the very first time.
Offred – or June, as she was known then – had no idea of the horrors to come. How the red tag on her ear (denoting her fertility status) had doomed her to a life of sexual servitude and surrogacy. How she would have her own name identity wrenched from her. How her status as a ‘second wife’ (her husband, Luke, was married before her) meant that this theocratic society would see her punished as an adulterer. How she would be forced to don red robes, enter the home of a Commander (Joseph Fiennes), and take part in a monthly ‘ceremony’ – or, to call it what it truly is, rape – in a bid to bear him and his wife a child.
The brutish Aunts, however, were there to tell her all of this and more. Dressed in shapeless brown uniforms, with the symbol of an inverted vagina hanging from their necks, they bullied and berated the ‘girls’ into accepting their new realities.
And, yes, Atwood herself was among these disciplinarians.
Check it out:
Of course, this isn’t the only time that the show pays homage to the author behind the novel. Although, fair warning, there are spoilers ahead…
In episode two, Offred and the Commander embark on an illicit game of Scrabble together – and, in a bid to see who goes first, they each flip a tile.
The two letters they reveal?
Yup, you guessed it: an ‘M’ and an ‘A’.
In the fifth episode of the show (which has been broadcast on Hulu in the US), Offred is seen reflecting on her complex relationship with the Commander.
In a bid to explain exactly how she feels about him, she recites a stanza from “a poem I read once”.
The lines she cites are as follows:
“You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye.”
Well, it should: as Redditor Woah-buzhidao points out, this is yet another Easter egg: these lines have been taken from You Fit Into Me, one of Atwood’s own lesser-known poems.
And we doubt the cameos will stop there: Atwood is on board as a consulting producer on the show, so it’s safe to say that the adaptation will feature plenty more references to the iconic author before the final episode rolls around.
Hulu viewers are up to episode eight of the series, while Channel 4 viewers will be able to see the third in the series of 10 on Sunday 11 June at 9pm. The first two episodes are currently available on 4OD.
Images: Hulu / Channel 4