I wish to review a short horror classic today. More about the author first :
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. She died on Aug 13th, 1935.
Summary of the book
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.
I am totally stunned by this book. It let’s you see and feel how a person undergoing depression would feel. They can’t make others believe what’s going on inside them and have to face the harsh experience themselves. That is exactly what the title character in this book goes through. Her husband, John, who is a physician always calms her down with soothing words and reassures her she is alright and getting better, when she herself knows she is not. But she is not able to convince him for fear of his reaction.
The main highlight in this book, as suggested by the title, is the yellow wallpaper of her room, at the summerhouse she and John comes to stay at, as a countryside cure for her. Though she insists on staying in another room, John is adamant she stays there as that room has many windows and lot of sunlight. However, the wallpaper, stripped off from the wall at certain places, consumes her world completely. She spends hours at end watching it, forming shapes and patterns out of it. Her feelings of imprisonment are projected onto the wallpaper and she, having all the time in the world at hand, tries to scrutinize every bit of it.
The author very successfully takes us along the main character’s descent to insanity. The book is written in first person narrative and that appealed to me a lot. What can a wallpaper possibly do to drive a person crazy??. You might wonder. But just read this book and you will, for a very short period, be taken down the road to madness. The ending stunned and creeped me out. Being the imaginative person that I am, I could very well visualize the creepy scene. For a few minutes I sat still, horror gripping my heart, trying to get that picture out of my mind. I really wish I could say more but well, I hate spoilers myself!
Though this was written a long time ago (1899), it somehow sounds modern to me. Sometimes classics can bore you. But not this one. This one, though only a few pages, is powerful beyond imagination. Also, I think the book cover is perfect.
This is a brilliantly written book and I highly recommend you read it too!. This book gets a 5/5 from me, which by Goodreads standards mean it’s amazing!
How I got a copy!