Book Review

This is a book review on Herland.

Gillman uses the three male leads rather effectively to broadcast her feminist viewpoints. What is a key factor to remember in the entire script is the date it was written. In 1915, the freedom of women was hardly as vast and accepting as it is today. Men preferred that their wives never left home so that their first and only priority was their husbands. They were considered incompetent in making workplace decisions due to their reservations of intelligence, in working for the same jobs as men due to their reservations of physical strength and even in their roles as mothers due to their reservations regarding motherhood. Thus, writing a book about those very traits completely debunks those reservations.

The three men representing the outside world hold the man-less society of Herland in complete reverence as a result. They are held aback by their counterparts functioning in a complex system of economy and culture where each woman is assigned a specialist task of sowing, weaving, farming, etc while all others share the common maternal goal of mothering a child. This is simply Gillman’s attempt at fixing the restricted minds of men who proclaim that women cannot share their responsibilities. When Van exclaims, “The solidity of those women was something amazing” (Gilman), a sense of ingenious unity is spurred in the reader with regards to women in general and that is the message Gilman’s trying to invoke.

This book carries with it an air of social reform. At the time Gilman sat down to write this particular piece, World War I had just begun. Women were fighting for equal rights as much as they were fighting for the stigma of inferiority for men. Gilman, in her complex plights of self-indulgence and depression, began engaging herself in social reformation by educating women of their capabilities and willpower. Herland was an attempt at encouraging women to think independently and harness their true potential both maternally and professionally. Her aim was to eliminate gender differences and enlighten the masses of the limitless powers of women who knew how to take a stand for themselves. It was perhaps for this very reason that she chose Van, a stereotypical male with as much an ego as a broader perspective on life, who stumbles upon the intricacies of this woman-oriented world and is fascinated by how faultless it is (Schellenbourg). When Van and his two friends do decide to stay and marry three of the women of Herland, it shows how adaptive the women are to new ideas and change as opposed to men, even though later Terry gets exiled for succumbing to his male instincts and attempt a rape.

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