I don’t read a lot of travel narratives. I am more interested in the world of the mind than the world of geography. Of course, the easy response is that travel narratives examine more than just the landscape; they examine the culture as well. Admittedly, I hear “travel narrative” and I think “Gulliver’s Travels“. And I just kept thinking of it as I read through Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Like GT, Herland is a satire. Unlike GT, Herland is highly obvious in its criticisms, no history lesson needed. Three scholars from different disciplines find themselves in a faraway land inhabited solely by women. After being captured, they develop a degree of reciprocity in cultural exploration with their captors. As they find out more about this land, they must describe their land as well.
The western world doesn’t look too pretty in comparison.
I wasn’t overly enthralled with this book. I felt it was a bit heavy handed to develop a utopia completely devoid of men. While there was a suggestion of gendered equality at the end, it follows a passage which masculinizes women.
That being said, Gilman is highly lauded for her discussions of gender dynamics, and it is nice to read something of hers other than “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Herland is the second in Gilman’s Utopian trilogy, along with its sequel With Her In Ourland.
Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Features: Complete disdain for sex
Who should read: Anyone who calls themselves a feminist