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Herland

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Character list

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Alima -  One of the three young women the men meet when they first arrive in Herland. Alima is attracted to Terry and eventually marries him. Terry and Alima have a stormy relationship, which ends badly when Terry tries (unsuccessfully) to force himself on Alima soon after their wedding. Like all the women of Herland, Alima is strong and self-confident and would never consent to an unequal relationship with a man.
Celis -  One of the three young women the men meet when they first arrive in Herland. Celis and Jeff are drawn to one another and later marry. Celis is mild-mannered and kind, but she is puzzled by Jeff’s courtly insistence on treating her as if she were weaker than she actually is. In general, however, they are happy, and Celis becomes the mother of the first “fathered” child in Herland’s 2,000-year history.
Ellador -  One of the three young women the men meet when they first arrive in Herland. Ellador is the most intellectually curious of the group. The relationship between Ellador and Van is the most successful of the three couples, as it is based on a close friendship and mutual respect. Ellador takes a great interest in the world beyond Herland, convinced that there must be good in the world of men, despite the testimony of Van and Jeff. When Van and Terry are forced to return home, Ellador agrees to accompany them, motivated by love of Van, curiosity about the world, and a desire to act as Herland’s representative.

Read an in-depth analysis of Ellador.

Vandyck Jennings -  One of the three explorers who discover Herland, and the novel’s narrator. A sociologist by training, Van is the “philosopher” of the group—the one who understands Herland most fully and critically—and the one who is most convinced that Herland has much to teach the outside world. Van has some difficulty adjusting to a society in which women are simply “people” and not a protected and constrained “weaker sex,” but once he makes the shift, Van sees the revolutionary implications of such a change more deeply than do his friends.
Jeff Margrave -  One of the three explorers who discovers Herland. A doctor and a botanist, Jeff is also a southern gentleman, with refined, romantic notions of idealized femininity, notions that are strongly challenged by the athletic, independent women of Herland. Jeff falls in love with Celis and puzzles her with his insistence that he take care of her, rather than simply treat her as an equal partner. Jeff soon comes to prefer Herland to any country on Earth, though his appreciation of Herlandian culture is tinged with his generally unrealistic, idealized vision of womanhood.
Terry Nicholson -  One of the three explorers who discovers Herland. Terry is the driving force behind the expedition to Herland and the most forceful of the three friends. A classic male chauvinist, Terry fancies himself quite the ladies’ man and prides himself on his knowledge of and control over the female mind. Convinced that women like to be “mastered” both emotionally and physically by men, Terry is completely flummoxed by the women of Herland, who don’t need men at all. Terry is unable to relate to women as equals, and this inability dooms his relationship with Alima.
Moadine -  One of the older women who tutors the three men in the ways of Herland. Moadine is charged with guiding Terry, a difficult task she approaches with a great deal of patience. Terry is convinced that he has Moadine outsmarted, but Van sees that Moadine is humoring Terry as she would a small child, concealing her amusement at his conceited ways.
Somel -  One of the older women who tutors the three men in the ways of Herland. Somel is a wise and knowledgeable guide to the history and customs of Herland. As she teaches Van, Somel is also gathering information from him regarding his own society. Though Van often sugarcoats or omits the truth, Somel is able to cut through his obfuscation and build an accurate—and ugly—picture of the modern world.
Zava -  One of the older women who tutors the three men in the ways of Herland. Zava deals with Jeff in particular, and she reminds him of one of his aunts.

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