Friday, 15 May 2015


I've always been skeptical of the short story, having only read novels I was sure a short story could never measure up with the thrills of a lengthy plot line. But as I've matured and my appreciation for the beauty of prose itself has developed, so has my appreciation for a good, simple tale. Written in 1892, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is probably her most famous short story, and after studying a lengthy passage of it for an assignment I was keen to read the rest. The edition I bought included five other short stories by Gilman, and after reading each of them my love for short stories is resolute, but I also think The Yellow Wallpaper might not be the best of the batch, and the other's deserve just as much (and in some cases, more) recognition.

The Yellow Wallpaper 

Disturbing. If I had to describe this short story in one word it would be that. Disturbing. This is a tale narrated to us by a woman suffering from depression. The woman (whose name could possibly be Jane, but is not confirmed) is kept in the attic of a secluded house by her husband, John who happens to be a physician. Little does his wife know that the room in which she resides has hosted many an unstable person before. Once cut off from the rest of the world, the narrator becomes fixated with the hideous yellow wallpaper in her room. It's through her thorough exploration of this wallpaper that we see her mental health dip into a rapid decline. The story not only emphasises the inequality in 19th century marriages, but also sheds light on the ignorant, and often harmful way in which mental health issues were treated.

Three Thanksgivings 

I LOVE this story! In fact, it might just be my favourite. Mrs Morrison is a widow who lives in the huge, beautiful house her father once built. A tale of a woman's struggle for economic independence in the 19th century, we witness Mrs Morrison continuously and politely decline the marriage proposals of a man to whom she owes some money. We watch her build economic stability for herself with the help of other women, and despite the insistences of her children who believe she would be better of retiring in one of their households instead. It was refreshing to read such a quietly powerful story about a much older woman. This character not only breaks stereotypes about a woman's apparent need to marry a man for economic stability, but also assures the reader that we can always find our life's calling, despite age and the opinion's of others.

The Cottagette 

Gilman's stories have a strong feminist streak running through them, however feminism doesn't go hand in hand with misandry, and Gilman portrays this distinction well. Just another of the many things I love about her work. Malda and Lois live alone in a tiny little cottage where they are often visited by Ford Mathews, a writer. In order to impress Ford, Malda gives up her embroidery and transforms herself into the perfect domestic woman, not realising that Ford loves her for exactly who she really is. This story is so lovely and sweet, and almost restored my faith in the purity of love and stuff ;)


A long and seemingly perfect marriage gone wrong. A cheating husband who thought he could have the best of both worlds. A woman's world shattered. A broken heart or two. Similarly to Three Thanksgivings this story screams 'Independent women/we don't need no man' but also beautifully describes the pain that comes with betrayal. I loved experiencing the logical workings of Mrs. Marroner's mind, and truly appreciated her response to her husband's infidelity. I also quite enjoyed the moment her husband realised the women in his life were better off without him! BYE FELICIA.

Making A Change 

At first glance this seems like the usual mother in law/daughter in law with a frustrated son/husband stuck in the middle kind of story. But it's actually much more than that. Julia - a musical prodigy - gave up her passion for the sake of her husband and child, but by doing so, the balance of her life is destroyed. In a similar vein to both Three Thanksgivings and The Cottagette, Gilman creates the perfect solution for a family filled with dissatisfaction. Both the mother and daughter in law must prioritise the things that make their life enjoyable, and with a little bit of compromise and teamwork, life can become better for all.

If I Were A Man 

This was such an interesting little story. Gilman simply creates a scenario in which a frustrated wife is given the body of her husband! I found the transition a little confusing at first but one of the things I love about this short story is that there was no need to explain what happened and why, it simply did. In this manner Gilman was able to provide a wife with the experience that comes with being a man, while simultaneously allowing the husband to become aware of a woman's thoughts, which (surprise surprise) are far less shallow than the men of the time presume them to be. A great concept!

Mr Peebles' Heart 

I really enjoyed this story, possibly another favourite! Mr Peebles is an overworked and underappreciated husband with a wife who knows nothing more than what society taught her was important for a women to know. And in the 19th century, that wasn't much. There seems to be a recurring theme in Gilman's stories which I didn't notice until I wrote this post, all Mr Peebles needed was a little time away to follow his greatest passion. It's quite clear that Gilman believes that everyone should have independent thoughts and hobbies, even more so in a marriage. Maybe what the author wishes to tell us is that our lives should never revolve around other people. It's perfectly fine to love and compromise, but we should do so while remaining true to ourselves.

Let me know if you've read any of these short stories, and which one you prefer! Were you also unaware of how great a short story can be?


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