Saturday, January 21, 2012

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

There were two aspects of the story which struck me most: the voice of the main character and the knowledge of the book.

As a female writer, I know how difficult it can be to write from a male point of view. Most of the time, male characters written by female authors have a tendency to be either thoroughly romanticized or masculinely generalized. Although Mrs. Gilman created these types of men in her story, Jeff being the romanticized male and Terry being the overly masculine, the main character of Van stayed somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. This is important because, as the narrator of the story, Van needs to have a certain amount of credibility in order for the reader to believe that everything he tells us about this country full of women – their lifestyle, their religion, their virgin births – really exists in some undisclosed location.

I was impressed with the amount of knowledge that Mrs. Gilman fit into the story. The amount of philosophy, agriculture and religion discussed within the pages of the book serves two purposes: first, it lends credence to the idea that such a world could exist by making it logical; secondly, it informs the reader as to the higher learning of the author. When I think of education for women in the early 1900s, I think of reading and writing, possibly a foreign language, domestic schooling and some kind of liberal art specialty (musical instrument or drawing). One does not think of history, philosophy or religion, which were considered manly professions.

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