*PREFACE TO REVIEW: I have a soft spot for literature about descents into madness. I blame it on my mother taking me to see Lost Highway
in the theater at a young and tender age. I also blame this film, to a larger extent, on my fashion sense from then to now. Which is to say, I blame my mom. Who is, in fact, more sane than most.*
Ah, suicide authors! You do know madness so!!! There have been a few times where I have personally thought that I was going off my rocker, but considering that I've yet to seal my (nonexistent) children into a room so I can gas myself into the ever-receptive arms of Death...or shot myself when I found out I had cancer...or poisoned myself with CHLOROFORM when I found out I had cancer like Gilman did (I don't have cancer), then I guess I'm doing fine, and far from at risk of being a mad genius whose descriptive abilities concerning my slow backward crawl away from the really real realities of for real realness are the first step in accepting my problem, which would be (and is not) insanity. Well, you can't win 'em all, I guess. For example, my rational mind begs me to wonder why "in the hell" Gilman opted for chloroform. I mean if I were crazy (WHICH I'M NOT, YOU WILL RECALL), I could think of much more fashionable, delightful, actually-seeing-angels-and-heaven-on-your-way-out-of-this-mortal-coil-and-into-the-worm-farm ways to go. Just saying, you should always explore all of your options before making a firm decision on any matter...particularly those of notable importance.
The Yellow Wallpaper
is a well-written and I'm sure at the time quite shocking and groundbreaking feminist rebel-yell. The title story is the bestestest one...it concerns a crazy bitch who goes all crazy like women tend to do (KIDDING, GOODREADS TROLLS! KEEP YOUR CORSETS ON AND CHILL, BABY GIRLS!) The description of the narrator's break with reality is beautifully constructed, exploring the process of "reasoning" that leads a crazy person to firmly believe that they are not crazy, because they've been so gall-darn "rational" the whole time (as you will recall, I myself am not crazy. Trust me, I've thought it through). The rest of the stories present powerful critiques of male/female power dynamics, as well as female/female dynamics from the most sincere to the most socially fabricated, destructive and (sadly) often digested. It says to the readers (consider the audience...1890's folks) "How about NOT THAT. Have you ever considered NOT THAT? Maybe that is a poisonous thought-pattern worthy of, perhaps, a consideration of exploring whatever is NOT THAT." A message worth hearing, and which left its mark on perceptions of gender and identity from 1892 forward. You can't really criticize something like that, can you?
A CRITICISM: There is one story in the book called "Turned" which tells of a married couple and their adopted-from-the-streets-mega-hot-girl-daughter-figure. *SPOILER ALERT* Daddy-figure knocks her up. Mommy Dearest finds out, and is a whee bit upset. Here is this girl that she had saved from a life of poverty, personally educated, fed, clothed, the WORKS...all of this only to find out that the ungrateful little brat doll has been fucking your husband? WTF!!?!?!, you say! Yeah, that's right. It's called righteous vindication, and she deserved to experience and work through every bit of her initial feelings of anger. THEY WERE WELL DESERVED. However, Gilman's perspective is that the only person who has done anything wrong is the father-figure. I know, you may be thinking "I smell a Humbert Humbert," but let me fill you in on a little detail. The character being presented as a victim of the savageries of *the male sex* so to speak is 18 years old. Not 12. Not 14. Not 5. She is EIGHTEEN. They say that thirty is the new twenty, which would lead me to believe that in 1892, this poor, innocent "victim" was approaching her 30's as far as everyone else was concerned. Despite this fact, the mother changes her mind, puts on her man-hater suit, and takes the young WOMAN away and raises the child with her, abandoning the man to dwell in his regret without giving him a single opportunity to be involved in the life of his child. This rubbed me the wrong way, and it is my one truly deep gripe with this book. It just seemed so, forgive me but...femi-nazi. Pardon the cliche, but they say "it takes two to tango" for a reason, people.
In short, read it. It only takes an hour or two. And never assume you can get away with cheating (especially if you're living it up in the pre-birth control days, thankyouverymuch Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the ensuing feminists you directly inspired). This ramble is over.