Wednesday, January 5, 2011
As recorded on Librivox, 28 mins long
Our narrator is a woman who has recently moved to a summer rental in hopes of "curing" her of a malady her husband, a physician, is not convinced she has as there are no physical manifestations. His prescribed for her "nervous depression" is to cease all physical exertions, including writing. Once they arrive at the house she is almost entirely limited to time spent in what she determines must have been a nursery. She is convinced that she might do better if she were allowed to work and have more freedom. Instead she does manage to keep a journal, chronicling her thoughts which more and more begin to be about the yellow wallpaper in the room which she initially finds "revolting." Eventually she becomes convinced that there is a woman caught behind the "bar" of the wallpaper and that she must set the woman free by tearing off the wallpaper.
I was first introduced to this story by Care of Care's Online Book Club (her review here). She was clever enough to get me very intrigued but didn't tell me enough to have any idea what the story was about. So - wow! Apparently when Care was substitute teaching they talked about this story and some of the kids said it was boring. Boring? First of all, how can you get bored by something that is only 80 pages (or 28 minutes) long? Maybe it just went by them so quickly that they weren't picking up on what was happening and so thought that nothing much had happened.
What did happen to our increasingly unreliable narrator? She mentions a baby a couple of times; perhaps she was suffering from post-partum depression or psychosis, something that people of the time (this was written in 1892) would not have been familiar with. Or perhaps the entire story is a feminist statement about a woman's need to escape from the bars of her life. I'm still not entirely sure what happened in the story but I do know that it was fun to be able to get on to Twitter after I listened to it and talk to Goodreads friends about their thoughts.
This is just the kind of short story to make me understand why some people love them so much. This story was included in a volume of short stories on Librivox. I'm eager to try some of the others now. What short stories might you recommend?