How is Margaret Atwood not only a storyteller, but also something of a prophet and a teacher in The Handmaid's Tale?
It is important to remember that in this novel, just as in her other novels such as Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Atwood gives us one presentation of the future. Not only is she a master storyteller, but what she does in such fiction is, based on the present and possible trends stretching into the future, create a possible future that comments on the way that we seem to be heading now and what that could look like if we do not change our ways now. In The Handmaid's Tale, the particular focus of this possible future concerns questions of fertility and power, as fertile women have their rights stripped away from them in a tyrannical theocracy that forces them to become nothing more than sex slaves which is justified by religion.
Atwood seems to be commenting on two major themes that potentially face us in our world today: the decline in fertility of both men and women due to exposure to pesticides and pollution, and the danger of combining religion with state governance. Both of these themes are evident in the pages of this wonderful book but also point towards the way that Atwood assumes the role of a prophet and challenges us about the decisions that we are making now and how they could impact our future.