Women and Horror

This is actually my second time reading the Yellow Wallpaper; although the first time I read it was in elementary school and so I barely remembered anything about it. Especially how creepy it was! I mean, as a child I understood it was spooky, but it was only reading it as an adult (and especially reading it in conjunction with Simone de Beauvoire) that I really got how unsettling the entire thing was. I feel as if there are two separate levels to the horror in the story: the obvious and the implied. The obvious horror is very overt, it takes up most of the narrative and is apparent to most people who read the story: the narrator is slowly going insane and seeing women trapped in the wallpaper. The implied horror is more subdued, and is something I only understood on reading this story as an adult: the fact that the narrator’s husband and sister-in-law are insistent keeping her locked up and essentially imprisoned, even when the narrator tries to convince them that she should be allowed outside stimulus.

The obvious horror is, to me, something that you find in a lot of horror movies–something scary that seems somewhat improbable. For example, people may be scared after watching Silence of the Lambs, but they also realize that it is unlikely that they will be killed by a psychotic serial killer. The same is true for the obvious horror in the Yellow Wallpaper– it is unnerving to think of someone going crazy and seeing people trapped in their wallpaper, but it also doesn’t sound very realistic.  The implied horror, on the other hand, is so horrific because of how plausible it is. At the time, it was not uncommon for women to be trapped inside their own homes for ‘medical’ reasons. The fact that even the people the narrator trusts are complicit in her imprisonment only adds to the horror–not only is she trapped, but she has no-one to confide in and no hope of escape.

While the obvious horror is more eye-catching, and definitely scarier in the moment of reading the story, I think the implied horror is the more subtle, creeping horror that will keep me awake in the middle of the night.

p.s. -WOW ok this is going up late because i was an idiot who wrote this and then forgot to post it before i went off to my lecture, sorry guys!


One thought on “Women and Horror

  1. You’ve made an excellent point here, Bonney, about there being two levels of horror here. I suppose the second (being confined) leads to the first (going insane) in this case. It would indeed be awful to be confined by people who claim they are taking care of you (and who probably really think they are), and who won’t listen to you at all because they “know better.” When I think of it this way, my immediate thought is of the relationship between parents and children (and the relationship between the narrator and her husband does feel a bit like that…he calls her a “little girl” or something like that, if I remember correctly). Which makes me wonder how much we infantilize those who are ill, perhaps especially those suffering from mental illness. And perhaps even more especially (and maybe more so in the past? or maybe still today) women who are suffering from mental illness. There may be a fine line between caring for someone who needs help, and treating them as if they are helpless.

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