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7) Burroughs & Gilman: Social Issues

Tharks and the women of Herland have a lot in common: they both use eugenics in breeding, and their property and children belong to society, rather than to individuals. Nevertheless, their communities are very different from each other. What are the reasons for this difference?

The most obvious factor is, of course, sex. Herland society consists entirely of women, whereas men dominate in Thark community. Different mentalities affect not only the qualities they try to enhance in new generations, which is strength for Tharks and calmness for daughters of Herland, but also their social organisation. The most vivid example of this is the differences in judicial system. Judges do not exist in Thark society, and the only way to settle conflicts is battle, which is very manly. In Herland law resides with “the wisest”, to whom everyone is obedient, and who can settle all the questions, including the ones concerning the fate of the whole country.

The situation around these communities also affects their way of life. On Mars, you cannot grow anything, the only way to obtain goods in the desolate lands is through battling with other peoples, and so they raise warriors. Whereas women of Herland need to survive on their isolated piece of land, and so they cultivate love to their country, creative thinking and industry.

The way of upbringing plays the most important role in forming the minds of future citizens of these communities. Whereas Thark children, being the property of the society, do not know their parents and parental love, Herland girls get too much of it, all he mothers of the community taking care of them. Thus the militancy of the Tharks and the inability of Herland women to even get properly irritated.

However different the societies of Tharks and Herland may seem, they are both incomplete. Tharks lack affectionate feelings while Herland women lack hostile ones. That's why they seem equally inhuman.


Works cited:

1) A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

2) Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


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