The woman who can see into the future

Hand of fate: She says she is “sorry to have been so right” about imagining the world in 2019.

Is Margaret Atwood a prophet? She seems to have predicted recent attacks on women’s rights, President Trump, and the climate crisis. Yet she insists she sees only the present, not the future.

What’s happening

Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale was published thirty-four years ago. It is set in an imaginary society called Gilead, where women are treated like slaves, and not allowed to read.

Today, the book’s sequel comes out. Some people think it reflects changes now happening across the world.

Find out more

The Testaments is set 15 years after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, but Gilead is still going strong. The new book is about the ways that women try to rebel against the cruel government.

Over the last few years, feminists have paid more attention to The Handmaid’s Tale. They say that it predicted the future because they argue that US President Donald Trump’s government is encouraging sexism.

Feminists have started dressing like handmaids in red robes to protest against new laws that they say harm women.

Some have even called Atwood a prophet, for her ability to have foretold in her last book what is happening to women today, and for her warnings about the climate crisis.

Can anyone really predict the future?

Some say…

Of course not! We can only try to guess, but anything can happen and the future can change in an instant. Besides, the world today is nowhere near as bad as Gilead.

Others think…

Yes, they can. We can learn lessons from the past or by looking closely at the present. This is how Atwood is able to understand what direction we are going in. In that sense, she is a prophet.

You Decide

  1. Is it possible to predict the future?

Activities

  1. Write down three things that you predict will happen next year. It can be in your own life, or about the wider world. Then, seal it in an envelope to open a year from now.

Some People Say...

“Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.”

Lao Tzu (6th century BC), Chinese poet

What do you think?

Word Watch

Slaves
People who become the property of someone else, who they must obey.
Sequel
The second book in a series, usually with the same characters.
Feminists
People who believe that women are equal to men.
Sexism
When women are treated unfairly because of their gender.
Protest
When people publicly show that they are angry about something. For example, by going on a march.
Prophet
A person who has special powers, or a close relationship with God, that allows them to see into the future.
Foretold
To predict a future event.

Subjects

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.