Saturday, April 10, 2010
I finished book number two for the readathon - Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I had heard about this book in college when we read The Yellow Wallpaper in a class, but hadn't read it. A few months ago Rebecca at Rebecca Readshad a giveaway, and I won a copy. Thanks Rebecca!
Herland is about a land where only women live. They can reproduce asexually, and haven't had men in their society for 2,000 years. For the story, three men discover this land and assume that is must be awful because women can't run anything, that there must actually be men somewhere, and that they'll have a grand old time with that many women to conquer. She wrote the book in 1915, so that was still the belief of most of the world.
Of course, the women's world is portrayed as a utopian society where all is peaceful and wonderful. What surprised me was that their society so celebrated motherhood above all else, and that seemed to be their reason for living. I found it odd that Perkins Gilman visualized even this utopian society that way since she did not seem to enjoy motherhood herself. After she and her husband separated and he remarried, she willingly sent her daughter to them. So this worshipping of motherhood just seemed really odd.
I think that aspect is part of what prevented me from really enjoying the book. As someone who does not want to have children, I hate things that focus on how the point of everything is to have kids. I didn't expect to love this book since I personally don't think an all-woman society would be a pleasant thing. I have to agree with a bit of the men in the book's preconception of the society, that the women would fight all the time. Maybe if men weren't in the picture women wouldn't tend to be so jealous of each other and so mean, but I don't know. I mean, when I was dating this one guy in high school, I had several different girls threaten me if I didn't break up with him. Again, maybe that wouldn't happen without men around, but it just seems like there would still be something to fight about. And I prefer anti-utopian novels to utopian ones. They seem much more realistic. I guess I'm a pessimist.
I am glad I read this book though, I did think it was interesting and it does you make think, and it does make me appreciative of the fact that I can have a great career, could easily support myself if I wasn't married, and can choose not to have kids if I don't want to.