Theme Of Love In Herland

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The word “love ”appears one hundred and thirty-one times in the one hundred and forty-eight pages of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel Herland. On almost every page, descriptions of familial intimacy and compassion are presented, in theory, in metaphor, and in daily practice. However, the male protagonists discovering Gilman’s utopia are adamant that real love is absent from Herland, one remarking that “[the women] hadn 't even the faintest idea of love--sex-love, that is.” (Gilman 91) The three explorers, men “in [their] own deep-seated convictions of the power of love,” (Gilman 124) encounter a new meaning of “love” in this strange land, described as a nearly religious practice that surpasses selfish needs or individual passions, a universal …show more content…
In Herland, to love is to create community and relationships, to develop a well-functioning society in which all are fulfilled, and to foster improvement of the self and of one’s surrounding environment. The creation that warrants the greatest honor, accordingly, is offspring- the careful breeding of an innocent and malleable mind into an equally loved and productive member of society. The women of Gilman’s nation are not merely “mothers,” but “Mothers… in the sense of Conscious Makers of People.” Their creation is active, mindful and purposeful; they perceive and enact “Mother-love” not as “brute passion, a mere "instinct," [or] a wholly personal feeling,” but what the men can only describe as something akin to a religion (Gilman 71). They perceive love in Herland as religious because it is so ritual and communal, powerfully and pervasively ingrained into each facet of their society. “Raised to its highest power” (Gilman 60), motherly love is “simple yet sacred,” the center of “all their wide mutual love, the subtle interplay of mutual friendship and service, the urge of progressive thought and invention, the deepest religious emotion.” Motherhood, for these women, and in the real world, is intimate in its universality. There is said to be nothing greater than a mother’s love, and Gilman magnifies this; indeed, raises motherhood “to its highest power.” Indeed, for the women of Herland, “their great Mother Spirit was to them what their own motherhood was--only magnified beyond human limits. That meant that they felt beneath and behind them an upholding, unfailing, serviceable love--perhaps it was really the accumulated mother-love of the race they felt--but it was a Power” (Gilman 114). With motherhood as the basis of their connection with each other and with a higher power,

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