Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other StoriesSynopsis from back cover: Best known for the 1892 title story of this collection, a harrowing tale of a woman's descent into madness, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote more than 200 other short stories. Seven of her finest are reprinted here.

Written from a feminist perspective, often focusing on the inferior status accorded to women by society, the tales include "Turned," an ironic story with a startling twist, in which a husband seduces and impregnates a naive servant; "Cottagette," concerning the romance of a young artist and a man who's apparently too good to be true; "Mr. Peeble's Heart," a liberating tale of a fiftyish shopkeeper whose sister-in-law, a doctor, persuades him to take a solo trip to Europe, with revivifying results; "The Yellow Wallpaper;" and three other outstanding stories.

These charming tales are not only highly readable and full of humor and invention, but also offer ample food for thought about the social, economic, and personal relationships of men and women - and how they might be improved.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Here's what I thought about each individual tale:

The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman who is thought to have a nervous condition. She is told to get plenty of rest. She is staying in a room with horrible yellow wallpaper and she spends so long staying in the room, staring at the walls, that she starts to see things that aren't really there.

The story is written as journal entries, and it's quite disturbing to see how the woman becomes more and more obsessed with the wallpaper and the things it contains.

Three Thanksgivings is about a woman who cannot afford to keep her house, but does not want to move. She has only two years to find the money to pay the mortgage off in full, or she will be forced to marry the man who has loaned her the money. One day she has an idea and goes on to set up her home as a clubhouse and starts making her own money.
A sweet little story, I thought it was hilarious how Mr Butts, the money lender, didn't believe that she could have made the money herself.

The Cottagette is about a female artist who falls in love with a man and is convinced that she has to be a good cook and housekeeper in order to get him to marry her. I liked this story, it was cute and funny.

Turned was probably the story I liked least out of this book. Mrs. Marroner has a girl servant who she has brought up as if she were her own daughter and has prepared her to go to college. It turns out that the servant is pregnant and the father is Mr. Marroner. I found this story to be quite cliched and the ending was a bit strange.

Making A Change is a story of Julia, who used to be a musician before she got married. Julia is a new mother and is struggling to look after her baby. Julia is obviously depressed and she reluctantly lets her mother-in-law start caring for the baby, and then tries to end her own life. Luckily Julia's mother-in-law finds her in time to save her, and together they come up with a way to solve their problems. Once I got past Julia's attempted suicide, this was a really happy story.

If I Were A Man is a really funny story. Mollie wishes she were a man, and all of a sudden she finds herself in her husband, Gerald's head. I thought the author did a wonderful job of writing from a man's perspective. I especially loved the man's thoughts on women's hats.

Mr. Peeble's Heart is about Mr Peeble who has always wanted to go travelling, but never got around to it. The story is mostly concentrated on Mr Peeble's sister-in-law who is a doctor. She is the one trying to convince Mr Peeble to take a trip to Europe alone. It was a cheerful story and brought a feel-good ending to the whole book.


  1. The Yellow Wall Paper sounds fascinating. Some older titles seem to be re-emerging with renewed importantance and this sounds like one of those. Thanks for that review you have alerted me to what sounds like a great collection of short stories.

  2. Wow, sounds like a great book. I can't believe I am only just hearing about this book. A definite must-read for me!