I found the little section in the book about assisted suicide of Pillar really intriguing. Toby does not feel like she has an option but to help in the inevitable death of Pillar yet at the same time she feels guilty about it. Also, the idea of a mercy killing is unacceptable to the gardeners as Adam One decides that it is better to share with them the lie that Pillar OD then to tell them that she was sick and killed herself.
Since Margaret Atwood is from Canada I decided to look and see if there was any historical cases about assisted suicide when TYOTF was published. Sure enough there was a landmark case concerning a 31 year old man, Stéphan Dufour, who was charged with assisting in the suicide of his wheelchair bound uncle. He pleaded not guilty however claiming that he did it as an act of mercy for his uncle.
This brings up an interesting argument about weather or not the government has the right to tell us that we have to live or die. Clearly Pillar believes that what she is doing is for the best of society. The Gardener’s will be relieved from having to care for her, her body will be given to the earth, and she will no loner have to suffer. However there is also the issue of putting Toby in the very uncomfortable position of having to assist her against her will.
Toby feels like Dufour in that she doesn’t want to help someone kill themselves yet she is trapped into it and doesn’t really have an option. In the Dufour case he is mentally handicapped and after being pestered for months by his uncle felt that he had no other option. Like Toby, he felt manipulated to do a favor that is perhaps to heavy for him to carry.
I am still thinking about this and doing research but just wanted to share some of my initial thoughts. 🙂
News, CBS. “Quebec Man Acquitted on Assisted Suicide Charge.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 12 Dec. 2008. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.