The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Penguin, 1995, 91 p.

The Yellow Wallpaper cover

This is a small collection containing five of Gilman’s short stories, published as part of Penguin’s 60s Classics series. All could be considered to some degree feminist tales even if the term was not in widespread use at the time they were written. Three have some supernatural/speculative bent.
The Yellow Wallpaper is Gilman’s famous tale of a woman in her sick bed haunted by the yellow wallpaper of her bedroom room in the house her physician husband has rented for three months. Possibly being gaslighted (gaslit?) by her husband and his assurances that she needs to rest and take medicine to become well again, over the weeks she comes to see strange patterns in the wallpaper and an old woman behind its bars, as if imprisoned. The shift in the last two pages is impressive.
In When I Was a Witch a woman ventures onto a New York roof on a sultry night and is mewed at by a scalded black cat, witnesses a horse being mistreated and wishes for all the inflictors of such iniquities to feel the pain themselves and all ill-used cats and dogs to be relieved of their pain. Her wishes come true.
Turned is the old tale of a young innocent servant girl taken advantage of by the man of the house, here transmogrified by the response of his wife to the situation.
In Making a Change a new mother driven to distraction by sleeplessness and her mother-in-law’s criticisms attempts suicide. Her mother-in-law saves her and plans the change of the title.
The most overtly feminist story, If I Were a Man, embodies the wish of its title as Mollie comes to inhabit the consciousness of her husband – enhancing both her realisations and his.

Pedant’s corner:- would go down cellar (down to the cellar.) “a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure that seem to lurk” (seems,) “used to make my fairly frantic” (used to make me.) “The sobbed bitterly” (contexts demands, “She sobbed,” ) “the pangs of bitter jealously” (jealousy,) “joked his wife” (to his wife,)

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