Monday, January 1, 2018

REVIEW: The Yellow Wallpaper (e-short story) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This is a vacation reading review and, as usual, there are spoilers.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is one of the few things I read during my vacation that wasn't a graphic novel or manga. I downloaded it via Project Gutenberg. I think I saw a review of it on Booklikes, but I couldn't remember a thing about it. I wasn't even sure what genre it was and, since I didn't bother to look it up before getting started, I thought it might be a mystery. It's actually more psychological fiction (psychological horror?).

An unnamed woman stays at a fancy house with her physician husband and their baby. She's supposedly there for her health. Her husband says there's nothing physically wrong with her - she's suffering from hysteria/a nervous condition and must receive as little mental stimulation as possible. The woman feels she'd be better off elsewhere, but her husband insists that she stay in the horrid former nursery with torn yellow wallpaper and barred windows. The story takes the form of secret journal entries written by this woman, as, from lack of anything else to do, she obsesses over the wallpaper and gradually goes mad. She begins to see creeping women everywhere, including behind the paper, and finally comes to believe that she is one of the creeping women as well.

I wasn't expecting this to be so unsettling. When I first started reading, I wondered whether the woman's husband had malicious intentions. The room was objectively awful, and the woman's request to spend a bit of time elsewhere didn't seem like a big deal. I think the husband probably did have good intentions, though. He just had terrible ideas about what might help his wife. I wonder if it finally dawned on him, too late, that he'd gone about everything all wrong?

I wondered whether the room was really an old nursery, or if it had once held someone else very much like the narrator. It was such a sinister place.

All in all, this was an excellent and quick read, and this is coming from someone who generally prefers novels over short stories.

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