This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.
The motif I found most different, yet substantial, is the author’s conscious/subconscious slotting of men into ‘types’, each represented by the 3 friends, how women react to each type, how men think of what women want, and how different it is from what women actually want.
The author casts Terry as a brash, outspoken, rakish sort of man, with a corresponding desire to ‘conquer’ a woman by force of will. He wishes to subjugate Alima, and to a greater extent all the women of Herland. He is greatly affected when he realizes that these women aren’t pushovers, but have qualities of mental and physical strength. He calls them names and basically implies that they are sexless creatures.
Contrast Terry with Jeff, who worships women and the ground they walk on. In his eyes, they can do no wrong. He is the quickest to adapt to the Herland way of life, and, indeed, from the trio of men he is the only one to stay back in Herland and make it his home, along with his wife, Celis.
In between these two extreme caricatures of men lies Van, who, with his background in Sociology has a more rational mind, and who also finds his two friends somewhat extreme in their respective ardor. Van, because of his attitude of treating women as equals, becomes more popular than the other men, as it seems the women of Herland respond to such an attitude. Not surprisingly, his and Ellador’s love is the strongest and deepest.
Throughout, the author projects her ideal male in Van, and shows the other two as being unappealing types of men. Indeed, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent sociologist (as was Van, in Herland), this during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women.
You can view the previously published theses here.