Atwood : Well they might try voting, just for starters. … I think one of the things that happened in the last 34 years is that people stopped — I mean too many people stopped taking religion seriously. And they stopped following the conversation, and that left a vacuum for other people to come in and kidnap that space, as it were. And [they] put in a number of ideas that are actually not very Christian. And are not very agreeable. How Christian is it to say that God is going to fry the world, but you're going to be up in a cloud watching? And then God will make you another one. … So how can people engage? Well I would say, pick a thing that's small enough that you can actually accomplish it. And not feel squashed flat like a bug because it's too much for you. So I limit my own engagement to a certain range of things, and other people can do kidneys and livers. Which are very seldom controversial.
I was perhaps too optimistic to end the Handmaid's story with an outright failure. Even Nineteen Eighty-Four , that darkest of literary visions, does not end with a boot stamping on a human face for ever, or with a broken Winston Smith feeling a drunken love for Big Brother, but with an essay about the regime written in the past tense and in standard English. Similarly, I allowed my Handmaid a possible escape, via Maine and Canada; and I also permitted an epilogue, from the perspective of which both the Handmaid and the world she lived in have receded into history. When asked whether The Handmaid's Tale is about to "come true", I remind myself that there are two futures in the book, and that if the first one comes true, the second one may do so also.
MARGARET ATWOOD: Well, that is more or less how. And The Handmaid’s Tale is the answer to the question. If you were going to change the United States from a democracy into a totalitarianism, how would you go about doing it? Well, you wouldn’t say, “Let’s all be communists.” You wouldn’t get any takers for that. You might say a rather twisted sort of thing that would say, “In order to preserve our freedoms we have to give them up for now.” You might say something like that. Which is kind of, I think, what’s been floating in the breeze this last little while. In order to preserve freedom we have to demolish freedom. Something like that. But you’re more likely to say, “This is the true religion. Follow our flag.” That kind of thing.