Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Genre: Gothic Horror, Short Story
Released: 26 February 2015
Series: Little Black Classics #42
This horrifying, semi-autobiographical feminist story of imprisonment and madness scandalized nineteenth-century society.
Contains 'The Yellow Wall-Paper', 'The Rocking Chair', and 'Old Water'
I had previously read The Yellow Wall-Paper in high school, and it was just as weird and horrifying when I read it recently. The same goes for the other two short stories within the book, which just goes to show how good of a writer Charlotte was - I was horrified by what she was writing, and yet I wanted to read more!
The Yellow Wall-Paper follows a woman, mirroring Charlotte, as she suffers from post-natal depression and is confined to her room by her doctor, who also happens to be her husband. The room is covered in ghastly yellow wallpaper, and with nothing to do all day but sit in this room, she begins to closely study to wallpaper, believing it to be trapping a woman. As she slowly falls into mental illness, she trying to free the woman. What ensues is a demonstration of why woman shouldn't be locked in when men believe it's the only way to get better. The ending is weird, shocking and horrifying and makes you appreciate our current stance on treating mental illness.
The Rocking Chair embodies much the same eerie feeling as The Yellow Wall-Paper. Two men are captivated by the sight of a beautiful blonde woman sitting in the window at an Inn that they immediately check-in, only to find the rooms empty when they reach them. Over the coming weeks, their friendship is tested as each believe the other has been with this woman, despite neither having actually met her. The rocking chair that sits in one room captivates them both, and it seems to have a mind of its own, rocking the seemingly invisible woman. It's only when the pair finally declare their friendship over that the true evil of this woman, and inn, are revealed, and you realise that nothing is as innocent as it seems.
Old Water sees to be different to the other two stories. It follows a girl called Ellen, who lives with her mother at the edge of a lake, and spends her days on the water in a canoe. The arrival of a poet sees him the pair discuss their love for the arts, and she even shows him how to row a canoe. It is only when he confesses his love for her that things take a turn for the worse, it a very surprising ending that proves to be the only piece of drama within the story.
The three stories are really interesting and great reads, despite them being somewhat weird, horrifying and dark. The Yellow Wall-Paper especially shows the harm in which nineteenth-century ideals were doing to woman.
Out of the three stories, I would have to say that Old Water was my least favourite, simply because it was a weirder story that didn't seem to have similar themes to the other two stories, which made it out of place in this grouping. My favourite seems to be The Rocking Chair, as it had a bit more mystery and ghostliness to it, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book if you enjoy feminist works, and have an interest in nineteenth-century work. It's a book that will give you something to think about, even if you don't realise it.