Herland | Study Guide

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Herland | Chapter 12 : Expelled | Summary



Van addresses the fact that he and his friends never meant to stay in Herland for very long, but a year has passed since their arrival. Jeff is staying behind. He and Celis are happy, and he finds himself happier in this country. He says that he thinks the world at home would be awful for Celis, and he suggests that Van and Ellador also stay. Terry, even as he says he loves Alima, is eager to leave. He mocks the women more fiercely than before, and the strike to his pride has settled poorly on him.

As they prepare to leave, Van attempts to explain to Ellador that there is much wrong with his world. She cannot "feel" it, even as she seems to understand his words. The negative aspects of his world are so unfamiliar to her that they are incomprehensible. Van and Ellador discuss whether he could leave and come back, and the idea of sexual love. Van realizes he would rather have Ellador as a companion without sex than be without her. He tells her so.

The women meet and weigh the things they've learned, both from what the men told them and did not tell them. Ultimately, they decide that while they will agree to let Ellador go and learn of the world, they require a promise that the location of Herland will be kept a secret. The novel ends with this promise being given.


The ending of the novel is abrupt and inconclusive. This is, in part, because Herland was followed by a sequel, With Her in Ourland, wherein Van and Ellador return to America but eventually decide to return to Herland and settle there. The concluding chapter of Herland ties up the loose threads of the men's experiences. Jeff has adapted to the country, and he'll stay there with Celis. She is expecting a child. Ellador is accompanying Van to America. Terry and Alima are separated as a result of his inability to evolve. Each of the three possible outcomes (both staying, both leaving, separating) is represented in one couple.

Significantly, the decision not to reveal Herland's location is made not only because of Terry's act of violence against Alima, but also because of the things the Herlanders have gleaned from the details they've learned about America. The women are cautious and wise. These traits were revealed throughout the entire novel, so this decision is not surprising. In many ways the novel progressed to its logical conclusion. The characters did not evolve in major ways. It is useful to keep in mind that while this is a utopian novel, it is also a novel that has existed primarily as a way to explore Gilman's social and political theories. Separating the theories from the novel leaves a thin plot, but the plot is a logical outgrowth of these theories—and asking the men and the reader to think about them.

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