- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Pantheon; 1st Thus edition (Feb. 12 1979)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394736656
- ISBN-13: 978-0394736655
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.3 x 20.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,252,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Herland Paperback – Feb 12 1979
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“Herland is utopia with a smile, a gently, witty version of what women can be. As fascinating to women for what it omits entirely as for what it discovers and invents for us, it is a fast and invigorating read. Herland’s real power now, as when it was published over sixty years ago, lies in its openness to what can still happen to us. Probably the most exciting portrayal is the strength of motherhood divorced from the nuclear family.” —Marge Piercy
“Cheers to Ann Lane for rescuing this delightful fantasy from obscurity. Gilman not only presents a charming/rational vision, but she exposes the absurdities of sexism in a way that still stings after half a century. If the utopias a society produced are any index of its ills, then Herland nails our own.” —Alix Kates Shulman
“Herland is pure delight. Those who know “The Yellow Wallpaper” but little else of Gilman’s life will be thrilled. What a serendipitous discovery!” —Susan Brownmiller
“It’s delightful to have Herland out in book form at last (after a sixty-five-year wait)! It’s a lovely, funny book. There is a wonderful flavor of Golden Age science fiction, which adds to the fun and doesn’t in the least spoil the argument, which is still fresh and very much of today.” —Joanna Russ
“Herland has always been the most endearing of utopian fantasies. It has also been, like that exploration of equality between the sexes that it projected, unavailable to the general reader. It is a joy to have it now in print. Generations of young women and men will be happier for the reading—and perhaps acting out—of some of its scenes.” —Eve Merriam
“An astonishingly readable proto—Ectopian novel, presaging themes of resurgent matriarchy that are getting much attention these days—a good-humored and thought-provoking look at what a literally Amazonian society might be like if no members of ‘the violent sex’ had been around for 2,000 years.” —Ernest Callenbach
“In Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman leaves the brooding spirit of “The Yellow Wallpaper” behind and gives us a robust vision of a feminist utopia—merrily exposing and exploding the conventions of patriarchy all along the way.” —Pamela Daniels
From the Inside Flap
f 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.See all Product description
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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. Many generations earlier the women had found themselves separated from the human race, with the men dying off. The society evolved, organizing itself around raising children and living in harmony with their surroundings. In the end, the three mail visitors end up falling in love with three of the women and are essentially converted as naturalized aliens.
"Herstory" is less science fiction than many of the utopian novels written during this period, and clearly its primary value is in terms of its provocative commentary on gender roles in the United States in the early 20th-century. Not surprisingly, Gilman questions the roles assumed by men and women in the "bi-sexual" society by showing the relative perfection achieved in Herland with its uni-sexual society. What Gilman sidesteps, of course, are the issues of sexuality: the women of "Herstory" are asexual beings, although they are capable of parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction). Also, by talking about these women as being descended from good Aryan stock she raises the specter of racism as well. But clearly Gilman's purpose is to provide a critique of the social order of the day, using humor as a way to mask her telling barbs and to provide her unorthodox views of gender roles, motherhood, individuality, privacy, and other issues. Then there are the parts where the inhabitants of "Herstory" are amused and horrified to learn about the conventional aspects of courtship, marriage, families, warfare, labor relations and even animal husbandry in the "real" world.
Because "Herland" is essentially a novella, running only 124 pages in this unabridged Dover Thrift Edition, it is fairly easy to work it into a class looking at 20th century American utopian literature or the women's movement. In many ways, although it is not as well written, "Herland" is a much more provocative critique of women in American society than Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" or Marge Piercy's "Woman on the Edge of Time." "Herstory" also stands out because it is a true utopian novel, written at a time when the dystopian emphasis was about to redefine the genre of utopian literature.
It is the story of three male adventurers who discover an unknown land that is virtually impossible to get to inhabited only by women. Scientific and curious by nature they plan a mission to fly over the country in a plane to investigate further only to be captured and held prisioner in "Herland." While captive they are tutored by and taught to speak the language of the inhabitants. Once they have mastered the language they learn that their captors do not mean them any harm, but rather want to learn from them about the outside world as they have been cut off from it for 2000 years by their natural barriers. The men learn from the women and the women learn from the men. We see how different life could be in a society ruled and inhabited only by women.
As a utopian or fantasy novel, this one is outstanding. There were parts I liked better and was more appreciative of now that I am older than when I first read it, and others that had me thinking "as if!" If you can get past the whole parthenogenisis premise its an easier pill to swallow, but this time around I wasn't buying it. I also found the over zealous religious tones near the end to make this short novel drag out far too long.
All in all I am glad I re-read it and encourage anyone who hasn't to do so.
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I always found it odd that Gilman, a prolific writer during her life, had become so obscure less than a century later as to be...Read more