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Statue of sisters, Sarah Towne Cloyce and Mary Towne Eastey

Interchange – It Has Happened Here: The Handmaid’s Tale


We open with “Little Girl Blue,” written by Rodgers and Hart in 1935, and here performed by Nina Simone. The song counsels the “little girl” to simply surrender because

All you can count on is the raindrops
That fall on little girl blue.

That Little Girl Blue comes tonight in the form Offred, the protagonist of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, turned film in 1990 and starring Natasha Richardson, and now turned into the longer form television serial produced by HULU.

For this Interchange I’ve taken from the past in order to comment on the repetitions of history.

First, I’ve borrowed from my first program on WFHB, The Custom House. In 2013 I interviewed Purnima Bose about Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction to coincide with a Books Unbound production of the novel. And of course, the discussion is timely and relevant in light of the seemingly eternal recurrence of theocratic impulses in the human, especially when those impulses are useful to men in power.

I’ve also borrowed the music off of the soundtrack to the 1990 film of The Handmaid’s Tale.

And here’s something borrowed from Melville who offers, in The Confidence Man and idea of why we read novels and go to plays. These must conform to reality–but offer a kind of hyperbole upon it. “[I]n books of fiction, readers look not only for more entertainment, but, at bottom, even for more reality, than real life itself can show. Thus, though they want novelty, they want nature, too; but nature unfettered, exhilarated, in effect transformed. In this way of thinking, the people in a fiction, like the people in a play, must dress as nobody exactly dresses, talk as nobody exactly talks, act as nobody exactly acts. It is with fiction as with religion: it should present another world, and yet one to which we feel the tie.”

And finally, I’ve borrowed Margaret Atwood. She will appear courtesy of a 2006 interview with Bill Moyers on his “Faith and Reason” program.

Here is Atwood’s response to those who might object to the assertion that the catastrophe of The Handmaid’s Tale cannot happen here. “Wanna bet?”

Purnima Bose is Associate Professor in the English and the International Studies Department at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Bill Moyers interview with Margaret Atwood (2006)
From Hannah Arendt to The Handmaid’s Tale: Margaret Atwood and lit scholars talk dystopia in the age of Trump (CBC/Radio-Canada)

“Little Girl Blue” performed by Nina Simone
“Shall We Gather at the River?” performed by The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet
“Save a Soul in Every Town” performed by The Christians
“Whispering Hope” performed by Pat Boone
“Crazy” by Willie Nelson

Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Assistant Producer: Rob Schoon
Board Engineer: Jennifer Brooks
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

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