Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman #bookreview #amreading

If you have ever read my review policy you might have noted that I typically don't review short stories. I've made an exception here for a couple of reasons. Well, all right. Maybe for one specific reason. My dear friend, Kriss - The Cabin Goddess, recently reviewed my new novella, The Beacon. She had a powerful reaction to it. If you missed that you can read about it here.

When she and I were discussing how she felt about The Beacon she told me that it put her in mind of this story, which she also had had a powerful reaction to. Since I had never read it I wanted to, to compare notes so to speak and to see how I felt about it.

As I was reading it today, I could have sworn I was actually reading someone's journal - which is exactly what the author had intended. At least up until the very end. 


It is the story of a woman who is seemingly suffering from post-natal depression and perhaps complications of that. Her health, both mentally and physically, are suffering, and she is rather quickly descending into a complete breakdown. Her husband, a physician, seems to feel she merely needs rest. I actually felt a fair bit of sympathy for him, even though we never heard his voice. It is so difficult to know how to help someone who is suffering depression even now, let alone back in the late 1800s when so little was known of the condition. 

I can see why Kriss made the comparison between The Yellow Wall-paper and The Beacon, and I could see the direction The Yellow Wall-paper was heading as I read it. I predicted the ending. I'm not saying that because I think it makes me sound smart or to be smug. I'm saying it because, maybe, just maybe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and I have some slight thing in common - a similarly twisted mind. 

I've read many reviews on this little gem and they all seem to come back to the same line - the narrator was unreliable. Almost as if all the reviewers took the same lit class, or feminie studies class, or some college course where this short story was required reading and that was the key element drummed in by the lecturer. 

Sure, she was unreliable because she was unstable and we only ever got to see her viewpoint. But while her unreliability was key in this story there is so much more in this tiny little book. Call it horror, call it feminist literature, call it haunting. Call it whatever you want to. 

Kriss called it powerful. I agree - it is powerful. 

Kriss also said that The Beacon is similarly powerful. 

Having written it, I know how I feel about it, but I have no objectivity regarding The Beacon

So I'm asking you to read both and see if you agree with her. Do they give a similar feeling? Are they both powerful pieces?

Have you read The Yellow Wall-Paper? You can get it free on Amazon. Just click here. You can get The Beacon on Amazon too for only 99 cents. Click on the links on the right side bar.

Book Blurb:
First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper – a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, The Yellow Wall-Paper stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.

About the author:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent American sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and non fiction, and a lecturer for social reform. She was a utopian feminist during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women, and she served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. Her best remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper", which she wrote after a severe bout of post-partum depression.


1 comment:

  1. Now it is MY turn to start crying. YEP! Now you see what I am talking about? I hate when people just regurgitate what they are taught. That is something our teacher did say about this, "Most of what you will read is the narrator is unreliable, I want you to go home and read it again, we are NOT going to discuss it and I want you to put yourself into her shoes. You just gave birth.. you have NO support, there are no pysch doctors or therapists who know what you are suffering from... go home and think from HER perspective and tell me, is that a point that needs to even be focused on, or is that a point which we need to start from, the power of the story. Same as with The Beacon, how powerful is the mind? What can it do but make our own realities?? Isn't that something else we discussed?

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