Herland | Study Guide

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Herland | Chapter 10 : Their Religions and Our Marriages | Summary

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Summary

The bulk of the chapter is a discussion on religion. The Herlanders practice a religion that deified motherhood, but in discussing it with Ellador, Van learns that the women do not believe in a life after death. He is confused by this, as she is with his belief.

A brief digression on the idea of marriage—and of taking a man's name—follows. The women are, yet again, confused by the ideas that are so commonplace in the men's world. The three men wed the three women. Van and Jeff express worry about Terry's treatment of Alima, but he tells them to mind their own marriages.

Analysis

In 1923 Gilman published His Religion and Hers (her last published book), which criticized patriarchal religion. Part of what she argued was that it was a "death focus" as opposed to a life or birth focus. Those ideas form part of this chapter in Herland.

The discussion of surnames reappears in this chapter. Initially, this was in relation to children sharing a family name with mothers—an idea rejected by the Herlanders. Gilman builds upon the concept by addressing it in regards to a woman taking the man's name. The women, not surprisingly, are bemused by this, too. The idea that the child stands autonomously naturally extends to women. Gilman stipulates, implicitly, that women should be autonomous, even in marriage.

Chapter 10 also sets up the conflict that leads to the end of the men's stay in Herland. The conflict between Alima and Terry has grown worse since the beginning of their courtship. Terry, the most sexist of the three men, continues to struggle with the idea of women as equals. The reader will recall that he attempted to lure the women in with jewelry (imitation stones). He complains about their lack of femininity. He resists the very state that women in America accept as normal, and influences Van and Jeff to join him when he flees their comfortable prison. Terry is unable to separate his identity as a man from his notions of a woman's role and place in society. The Herlanders do not conform to this definition, and even as the reader is told Terry "loves" Alima, he speaks of "mastering" her. His friends caution him, but he is a confident man—to the point of ignoring evidence that goes against his beliefs from the earliest point in the novel.

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