The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

2014 Group Reads - Archives > Moving the Mountain - Chapters 7 - 12

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message 1: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Our discussion continues. Here are a few questions to get us going.

1. What do you think about a society that is always happy, polite, efficient?

2. Should sterilization and/or being deemed unmarriageable be a tool to "weed out" those that don't fit with the new way of thinking?

3. If everybody is content, what would motivate the society to develop further? Is it possible to reach a point where further development is no longer needed?

4. John complains that women are trying to make men over to suit themselves (chapter 7). Do you think it's that or for other reasons?

5. What would the world be like if everybody worked with their talent and passion?

6. What do you think of the author's ending?

message 2: by Emma (last edited Jul 29, 2014 05:37AM) (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Deborah wrote: What do you think about a society that is always happy, polite, efficient?..."

I keep feeling the society described here is too good to be true. Is nobody allowed to ever feel a bit down or tired without being referred to a "Moral hygienist?" Is no child really ever short-sighted or naughty or argumentative? There seems to be little room for individual feelings and responses: it's all about the "society" as a whole.

And I was disturbed by the statement, "We killed many hopeless degenerates, insane, idiots, and real perverts." I wonder at the author's seeing such ruthlessness as desirable, when she herself suffered from mental illness - or was she trying to imagine a society where her own illness would not have arisen? Where would you draw the line between curable mental illness and insanity?

Having said that, there are a number of interesting and modern-sounding ideas: alternative energy, protecting the environment, the emphasis on child care, which all seem eminently sensible.

I actually haven't quite finished the book yet so maybe my views will be turned upside down in the last chapter...?

message 3: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Perkins brought mixed emotions for me as a reader. First, I love the ideas of women being seen as human, child care, great food that is safe and prepared (wonder what my life would be like if hubby didn't ask me everyday what was for dinner?), no housework!, alternative energy; to name a few.

Like Emma I was disturbed by the ease with which the society seemed to eliminate people who didn't fit in. What happened to their rights? I thought, perhaps, these individuals had to really be detrimental to society because John's old fashioned rural family is left in peace while not conforming. Yet, Dorcas seems to pay a price for this old fashioned thinking by being completely worn out from household tasks.

Perkins was definitely forward thinking. She believed that if women were freed economically by being paid fairly, the society as a whole would be freed. Having grown up in New England, I find myself with a bit of Puritanical upbringing still within me. I think I need to finish all my tasks before doing something enjoyable. The result is I don't get to do the things that feed my soul due to the endless amount of "have to's". I can't help but wonder what my life would be like with more time to do enjoyable things.

No society is perfect, and I truly believe that with everything always happy, polite, and good, we would cease to appreciate what was around us. It would morf into a boring cycle. Would still be able to discern emotions or actions other than positive ones? I think that we might lose this ability.

Helen_in_the_uk I think this is the strangest book I've ever read and I doubt I would have completed it without it being a group read.

I liked the ending, although it was a little abrupt. I had hoped that the next book in the Trilogy would follow the story, but from reviews it appears not. Therefore, I don't think I will be continuing with the Trilogy.

message 5: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Helen, the next book, IMO is the better book.

message 6: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments I've managed to finish it now, and I agree with Helen that the ending was oddly abrupt, although it did at least end on a note of hope. I think I was wrong to read this with the expectations of a novel, as it's clearly more of a political tract wrapped up in novel form. Like Helen, I would never have read it if I hadn't joined this group, but I'd like to give the next one a try.

message 7: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
The ending mentioned a dream which for me meant that the society could be a dream and not real

message 8: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Deborah wrote: "The ending mentioned a dream which for me meant that the society could be a dream and not real"

Did you mean, "It was a beautiful world, but it was not my world. It was like a beautiful dream, but seemed a dream nevertheless."?

I didn't take this to mean that he had been literally dreaming: but maybe the author was here acknowledging that such a world must seem dreamlike to her audience. The final return to Uncle Jake's farm is a return to "normality" - but she's trying to point out that it's a normality that can be improved by being changed and exposed to new ideas even if it can't be remade totally. I think. I admit the ending did leave me feeling confused so I might have interpreted this all wrong.

message 9: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Emma, Point well made.

message 10: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 229 comments A few remarks:

* Here is a society that is strictly rational. We are told that with a scientific approach we can build utopia within a few decades. It is not human nature that stops us from doing so, but blindness, prejudice and misplaced emotions. However, I wonder, is this blindness not part of our nature? How rational can we be?

* To build utopia we must, 1) eradicate poverty through socialism (lite), and 2) make a clean break with individualism. Collectivism is the great motivator, the New Religion, it should satisfy most of our emotional needs. North-America though is an unexpected location for all this!

* Gilman is criticized for wanting to eliminate incurable elements. But this is consistent with her rationalist and collectivist attitudes. Inherited from the 'Rousseau' strand in Enlightenment thinking, as opposed to the 'Voltaire' tradition (here in Europe still reflected in the differences between Green and left-Liberal parties).

* Politics play a minor role in utopia. Maybe not so strange when social sciences can provide most of the answers. This positivism largely disappeared after WW1 - an important reason why Gilman's influence went into a sharp decline. As she recognized herself, she was not one to flourish when Freud was all the fashion.

* Feminism remains - in this book - in the background, though its presence is always felt. It is clear that the mountain is moved by women, and it would seem that women are somehow more equal than men, but details are not given. The end of the slavery of housework however is given prominence - with good reason.

* This is a puritan utopia. Hidden behind the rational facade I sense fear of nature (the irrational?): tigers are eliminated, dogs and cats banished, the woods are turned into productive parks (except for Uncle Jake’s unkept plot). In the same vein, art is made harmless and brought in the service of education and amusement.

* Still, Gilman was right to stress the importance of paid work for women, that the vote alone would not be enough. Maybe it is more profitable to read her Women & Economics? And if not, why not?

message 11: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Wendel - Great points, and you've hit the nail on the head with your last statement. Back in the day when the ERA was in play, one of the echoing chants was women could get equal pay for equal work and it would mean that they would then be going to war. Well, they are active in the war now, and pay is still as yet unequal. There were many studies done during the modern feminist years that showed if a man was a clerical person he was paid better, but loss some respect as he was viewed as doing women's work. One of the things I love about Gilman is her insistence that we all are better if each one of us can use his/her talents and not be bogged down with housework.

The next title we are set to read, Herland, her feminism is more on the surface and she creates a land of women. I don't know how Silver chose the three titles that we are reading, so cannot comment on why we aren't reading Women & Economics. I do have a copy (somewhere), but it took me years to find it, but that was pre-Internet/ebook days. Not sure if it is easily obtained now. It's been long buried in my TBR pile so I cannot really comment further on its contents.

message 12: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 747 comments Starting second half. I am getting tired of the unrelieved lecture. But chapter 8 made me think of a terrific book by Sue Monk Kidd called The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. Kidd was a Christian writer who came to question the patriarchal teachings of the church. This book addresses her journey as she challenged the belief system in which she was raised to find a faith that included/respected her and her own relationship to God. Very powerful stuff. :)

message 13: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 747 comments “Literature is the most useful of the arts — the most perfect medium for transfer of ideas”

Excerpt From: Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “The Herland Trilogy.” iBooks.

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