When death’s poison courses through its victim: the body twitches, the breathing stops, the brain shuts down…the heart goes last. Margaret Atwood is the master of poignant tales. The foolhardy believes this just a story; the wise take note of her warnings.
THE HEART GOES LAST is not driven by characters; it is driven by simple twists of fate. A few screws tightened differently. Atwood’s machine looks real—the scariest version of dystopian literature.
THE PAST: THE GOOD OL’ DAYS?
Stan and Charmaine were the perfect newlywed couple with stable jobs and a beautiful house. A few bumps in the internet-driven economy turned their life around. Stan now felt his life was “pursued by bad luck, as if bad luck is a feral dog, lurking along behind him, following his scent” His wife, comforted by her grandmother’s nostalgic advice tried to hold onto the belief that “most people are good underneath if they have a chance to show their goodness”.
Those beliefs are hard to hold onto after “another midnight, another parking lot.” Fearful of having their last possessions stolen and their own bodies vandalized, the stressed couple sought refuge in the Positron Project. Together they could live in the Town of Consilience, where there’s a restaurant called Together, just down the street from Harmony Hotel.
Of course they longed for Happy Days.
THE FUTURE: JUST A FEW TWISTS OF FATE
“It’s a long time since Stan has encountered that muffling layer of smiling and nodding.” For an exchange of prison living, which was more like a work camp, Stan could usher his bride into a 1950s style neighborhood. Bright, cheerful, uncompromised.
“The main deal is the prison. Prisons used to be about punishment, and then reform and penitence…” National debts overflow, school loans go unbound, and prisons are run for profit. Keep in mind: this is the book. Sound familiar? Atwood even addresses our—I mean, her world’s—healthcare system, “Grandma Win refused to go to the hospital…She said it would cost too much.”
The future seemed so bright and full of potential. How could it get much worse? The project had a plan. Oh yeah, and “full production has begun on the new and improved sexbots.”
THE NOW: MARRIAGE AND SOCIETY
“They wanted her to use her head and discard her heart; but it wasn’t so easy, because the heart goes last.” In typical Atwood fashion, relationships are tested and the future goes awry. “Everyone has a shadow side, even fluffpots like her.”
The keys to Atwood’s kingdom is to realize the potential and the power, both in marriage and relationships as well as society and governments. Her advocacy on Twitter is evidence to her passion for being on guard, but if anything else: aware. Like HANDMAID’S TALE, Atwood shows in THE HEART GOES LAST the relevance of current issues and what lies beneath.
Be sure to check out LitHub’s selection from THE HEART GOES LAST, where Atwood annotates many parts, including about the rich affording police and the poor not having access to healthcare.
Also, Open Culture has a cartoon version of Atwood talking about how technology is shaping the modern writer.
And thanks to Bloomsbury UK for sharing the percentiles of elements in this book: