'The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.'
Written with barely controlled fury after she was confined to her room for 'nerves' and forbidden to write, Gilman's pioneering feminist horror story scandalized nineteenth-century readers with its portrayal of a woman who loses her mind because she has literally nothing to do.
Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). Gilman's work is available in Penguin Classics in The Yellow Wall-Paper, Herland and Selected Writings.
Yuen leads listeners convincingly through this beautifully wrought 1892 short story. She begins the first-person narrative with the voice of a sensible if somewhat distraught young woman confined by her doctor husband to an attic room with hideous yellow wallpaper and bars on the windows. She is thought to have a nervous condition and is permitted no activity, including writing, lest it tire her. Eschewing melodrama, Yuen gradually changes tone and inflection as the weeks pass and the wife starts tearing down the wallpaper, perceives another woman behind it trying to get out, and finally descends into madness. It's a short, intoxicating listen that merits more than one replay.