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Herland: A Lost Feminist Utopian Novel Paperback – February 12, 1979

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'A remarkable woman from the US whose influence was international' Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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On the eve of World War I, an all-female society is discovered somewhere in the distant reaches of the earth by three male explorers who are now forced to re-examine their assumptions about women's roles in society.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (February 12, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394736656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394736655
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #830,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 1997
Format: Paperback
The title of Gilman's novel may be a bit misleading. The novel is described as a feminist novel. Yet, this is not exactly acurate. The absence of men in the utopian society may seem extreme to some, and it is. This is how Gilman makes her point. She does not create a world without men because men are terrible creatures who have corrupted the world. The utopia which lacks men is a clean peaceful place, excelling in every way American society fails. But, it is neither the absence of men nor the presence of women that faciliates this.
Gender, in this novel, is symbolic for the most part. Gilman does separate the two genders to destroy steroetypes, but also to establish a concrete difference between the two worlds. The male world is not bad, and the female good. The world in which people are defined by others and limited to these defined roles is bad, while the world in which people are free to grow without being defined or compared to others, and are able to see the oneness of all people is good.
Comparing Herland to the reader's own world, Gilman begins destroying gender based stereotypes. Because there are no distinctions of gender in Herland, nor any superficial characteristics which accompany gender, Herland women take on the roles of all people without considering any limitations. These women are strong, agile, nurturing, intelligent, cooperative, and able to rely on themselves. They are not "typical" females. As Gilman explains through the male character Van, "Those 'feminie charms' we are so fond of are not feminine at all, but mere reflected masculinity--developed to please us because they had to please us, and in no way essential to the real fulfillment of their great process" (59). In the same way, stereotypes about men can be discredited.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Boone on April 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Obviously, many people who read this book -- including most of the reviewers here -- clearly misunderstood Gilman's tone and objective in writing "Herland." The purpose of the book is NOT to say that women are better than men in every aspect of life, or that women can survive without men. Indeed, the inhabitants of Herland realize that without males, their society is incomplete, which is why the three young women are encouraged to court the three male visitors. Gilman portrays two of her three male characters sympathetically and intelligently, and even the chauvinistic one is portrayed as intelligent, just misguided.

Gilman has two purposes, neither of which is to show the 'inferiority' of men. One, she wishes to show what a society would be like if everyone were treated equally. Two, and related, she wishes to show what society were like if people put the greater good above their individual goals. In that sense, Gilman's society is not socialism but more like anarchism -- there IS no central government; Herland operates like a large utopian family, in which everyone's role is equal and everyone has a very important role in society. No one's role is more important than any others, be they male or female.

The reason for the Herlandians' physical besting of the men is to show that women are only 'weak' because they are sheltered, and in turn are sheltered because they are weak; also, while the Herlandians were natural women living in the natural world, the men are essentially 'sheltered' by technology (all of them being specialists in an area) and thus are not physically trained as the women are. It's like a female Olympic runner beating a male who runs for his college in his spare time.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 20, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was arguably the most important American author of the women's movement in the early 20th-century. In addition to editing a newspaper, "The Forerunner," she wrote "Women and Economics," one of the first studies of the role of women in the economic system. Gilman also wrote a number of utopias: "Moving the Mountain" in 1911, "With Her in Ourland" (1916), and her best-known, "Herstory" in 1915. In "Herstory" Gilman creates a homosocial (one-sex) utopian society made up entirely of women in which the culture, political system, and families are the result of having women as the basis (instead of merely stemming from the absence of men). However, while other American utopian novels, most notably Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward 2000-1888," were standard reading for decades, Gilman's "Herland" was pretty much forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 1970s. Even after four decades Gilman's satire was seen as still speaking to the conditions faced by American women.
Following the conceit first used by Sir Thomas More in writing his "Utopia," Gilman's "Herstory" tells of three American explorers (male, of course), stumbling upon an all-female society in an isolated mountain valley in a land far away on the even of the first World War. Since they find this strange land to be civilized the explorers are convinced there must be some men hiding someplace, and set out to find them. As they search high and low for the male of the species they learn about the history of the country, the religion of motherhood, and the other unique customs, while trying to seduce its inhabitants.
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