Hard on the heels of finishing the course on utopias and dystopias, I decided to tackle Herland, a book I'd been intending to read for decades. To my delight it wasn't nearly as earnest and didactic as I would have expected a feminist utopia of the early 20th to be. Rather it was gently humorous and even-handed, suggesting that it is not so much a utopian vision, but a suggestion that in the relations between the sexes we can do a whole lot better without going to extremes.
The story has a classic utopian structure of outsiders "discovering" a previously unknown country where everyone lives in peace and prosperity. Three men, who represent specific types, hear about this land of women and resolve to find it. There's the narrator, Van, who is a social scientist, and who approaches women as equals, Southern gentleman, Jeff, who puts women on pedestals, and the "man's man" (read jerk) Terry, whose increasing anger and frustration at not being able to "master" these women leads to an intolerable act of violence.
Gilman's utopian vision is classic also in the sense that the country is far from perfect, and that much of the second half of the book is taken up with the romance between Van, and Ellador, one of the women of Herland, suggests that in the end, utopia is finding someone who completes you, challenges you, supports you, and who is as interested in you and your world as you are in theirs.
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; New ed edition (18 June 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486404293
- ISBN-13: 978-0486404295
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 0.8 x 20.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 113 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 482,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)