They were the most beautiful things she had ever seen, each different than the others, patterned in such rich colors that at first she thought they were crusted with jewels, and so large it took both of her hands to hold one. She lifted it delicately, expecting that it would be made of some fine porcelain or delicate enamel, or even blown glass, but it was much heavier than that, as if it were all of solid stone.p. 104 A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
It is stripped off--the paper--in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.
The Yellow Wallpaper
Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity.
Okay, so this is a short story about a woman's obsession with a particularly hideous, yellow wallpaper and her descent into insanity. You many be saying to yourself: "Really? Well this doesn't sound that interesting". And I would then say, "Not so fast; this is the story about a depressed woman on rest cure and her obsession with the aforementioned wallpaper". Are you intrigued now? No?... Yeah, well I wasn't either. I mostly wanted to read this story because it's considered early feminist literature. And although I'm not an uber feminist, I read somewhere that this story is an exaggerated version of the author's own life experience. While the story may not resonate with me, it's always worth it to peek into the life experiences of others.
Considering the circumstances, I suppose I might get anxious too if I were forced to be confined to a small space that I didn't like. I might also be on edge if my efforts to communicate via journal or direct talks were forbidden or shrugged off. The same would apply if I suffered from post-partum depression. These are all legitimate reasons if you ask me...but the narrator's husband/doctor thought otherwise. Her husband represents the smothering dominance of paternalistic oppression and the imprisonment of the narrator is well documented throughout the text:
"John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him".[Loc. 68-69]
"And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way--it is such a relief!"[Loc. 163-64]
'Bless her heart' said he with a big hug, 'she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let's improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning![Loc. 206-7]
In all honesty, I pondered the yellow color of the wallpaper more than anything else...Yellow is yellow. Happy, bright...regal in some shades. The narrator makes it a point to describe over and over again the pattern of the wallpaper: "One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin". But I think the wallpaper is bothersome to the narrator because it represents everything she cannot be or cannot do. The 'ugly' wallpaper is free to be ugly. It's free to be confusing and absurd...and I'm going to regress back to my color theory now; yellow is happiness. Yellow is enlightenment and energy. The narrator has not one of those things.
However, the story does take its turn and the narrator begins to shift her attitude from hateful to suspicious and then to intrigued by the wallpaper. The yellow wallpaper has become a secret or puzzle that only she can unlock. While many might see her obsession as her descent into irrationality, I see it more as her finally making good of a bad situation.
"There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will"[Loc. 184]
"Life is very much more exciting than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was". [Loc. 252-53]
I know this sounds odd. But rather than wait for her husband to give her the time of day, she uses her own creativity and imagination to transport herself from that place. But don't get me wrong, overbearing male dominance is no bueno, and this story does reflect a struggle for self in a male-dominated society.
I appreciated that is was a short read, but I didn't like the diary entry writing style, even though I get why it was used. And I only had one hang up about the ending...that is to say, I'm not sure what happened. Did her husband just faint? Is that it?
The Yellow Wallpaper
Yes. I've found another one. Numero tres. I read so much European literature in college and its carried over into my casual reading, so it only seemed natural to sign up for this one. Gilion over at Rose City Reader is hosting the challenge. I'll be pledging the five-star Deluxe Entourage level of participation. Find out more about the challenge here.
Author: James Weldon Johnson
The unnamed narrator, the offspring of a black mother and a white father, tells of his coming-of-age at the beginning of the 20th century. Light-skinned enough to pass for white but emotionally tied to his mother's heritage, he ends up a failure in his own eyes after he chooses to follow the easier path after witnessing a white mob set fire to a black man.
This is a great book. I highlighted many passages and I really enjoyed reading it. It's a fictional autobiography where the protagonist observes and relates his experience as a bi-racial individual from youth to adulthood. The following lines are imprinted in my head throughout the entire reading:
I feel that I am led by the same impulse which forces the un-found-out criminal to take somebody into his confidence, although he knows that the act is likely, even almost certain, to lead to his undoing. I think I find a sort of savage and diabolical desire to gather up all the little tragedies of my life, and turn them into a practical joke on society[Loc. 17-21]
Is the book a tragedy? --somewhat. Is it satire? --negative. In my view, the narrator has conducted a social experiment on the question of race, where he is both the scientist and the specimen. The social experiment of "passing", shifting one's racial identity for acceptance in society is very complex and detailed by the narrator to be a morally controversial one. In the novel, the narrator traverses the East Coast from North to South, leaves for Europe and then returns to the United States to traverse the coast once again from North to South, only to return to New York. As he travels he develops his own theories and philosophies, and categorizes all classes and castes of both white and black people. These theories and categorizations form a discourse on race in American society at the turn of the 20th century after the era of reconstruction and during the Harlem Renaissance.
As we already know, the discourse on the question of race in America is complex. The narrative does not ignore the fact that Black culture has been disenfranchised and made one-dimensional and the narrator's existence dispels the stereotype of what Black culture is supposed to be. His education, talent as a musician and capacity to speak several languages refutes the argument that Black people will never be equal to White people, intellectually. It suggests the opposite; Black people have made leaps and bounds of progress and they are a civilized people... I have to acknowledge that the narrator had a very fortunate upbringing. Even after the death of his mother, he seemed to possess a great amount of luck with work and the acquaintances he made. His sophistication and skill as a musician helped him no doubt, but his fair complexion had a great influence as well. Had he been a darker mulatto...well, he couldn't have passed.
When the narrator is on a train to the South, he overhears a heated debate between a Texan farmer and a professor from Ohio. The professor implies that not a single original or fundamental intellectual achievement that has raised man in the scale of civilization, can be credited to the Anglo-Saxon; the only contribution being what they have done in steam and electricity and making war more deadly. Interesting. Regardless of whose ideology dominates the race question, I think the following quote says a lot about the attitudes on all sides.
I once heard a colored man sum it up in these words: 'It's no disgrace to be black , but its often very inconvenient.[Loc. 1372-73]
In the end, no matter how great of Black man the narrator was, life as white man would be easier. Watching a Black man get burned alive by a mob of angry white people made that choice all the more clear...I wonder if I would have done the same?...I don't know.
I was relieved to know that he felt some guilt and shame after he made the decision to live as a white man, but I still can't say that he was 100 percent wrong to do it.All the while I understood that it was not discouragement or fear or search for a larger field of action and opportunity that was driving me our of the Negro race. I knew that it was shame, unbearable shame. Shame at being identified with a people that could with impunity be treated worse than animals. [Loc 1695-97]
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
The cool air somewhat calmed my nerves and I lay back and closed my eyes; but still I could see that beautiful white throat with the ugly wound. The jet of blood pulsing from it had placed an indelible red stain on my memory.
According to my kindle, Loc. 1098-1100. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
I am no judge of verses, and for my own part, never composed more than six lines in my life: Those six produced so unlucky an effect that I am fully resolved never to compose another.Loc. 2470-71 of The Monk by Matthew G. Lewis
Author: Matthew G. Lewis
Set in the sinister monastery of Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The great struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character the monk, Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder to conceal his guilt.
Based on the book description, I expected something sort of...Faustian?; and I suppose those expectations were met. There were two things that left an impression. The first being the crazy amount of violence against women in the novel; the drugging and attempted murder of the German Baroness, the rape and murder of Antonia, the murder of Elvira, and the public flogging of the Prioress (to name a few) I guess the horror has to get mixed in somehow...The second thing was the persistent presence of Evil, and the lack of presence and/or intervention by Good. Not that I expected Good to prevail over Evil in a Gothic novel, but Ambrosio had absolutely no willpower when it came to temptation. Predictable. I'm sure a contemporary upbringing has jaded any potential feelings of surprise or horror. My least favorite element was easily the lyrical poems that ran rampant throughout the book and I'm not going to lie--I skimmed over the really long ones. My favorite parts of the book are probably when the riots rage against the convent, when Ambrosio faces the Inquisition and the end when Ambrosio signs his soul away.
The Wandering Jew explaining his circumstance to the Marquis de las Cisternas.
'Fate obliges me to be constantly in movement: I am not permitted to pass more than a fortnight in the same place. I have no Friend in the world, and from the restlessness of my destiny I never can acquire one".
When Ambrosio discovers Matilda has given up her soul to avoid death at the stake.
'Wretched Woman, what have you done? pass but a few years, and how dreadful will be your suffering!'
' Weak Man, pass but this night, and how dreadful will be your own!'
Satan's response to Ambrosio's belief that he can still be pardoned.
'Are you not infamous in the eyes of Men and Angels. Can such enormous sins be forgiven? Hope you to escape my power? Your fate is already pronounced . The Eternal has abandoned you; Mine you are marked in the book of destiny, and mine you must and shall be!'
Didn't love it. Didn't hate it. Glad I read it.
3 out of 5 stars
Book written by writer who did time:
Book with psychopath protagonist:
Classic where the plot revolves around a crime:
The "Why the hell am I doing this to myself book?: