In class, our group discussed the genres found in the two Charlotte Perkins Gilman stories, “The Cottagette” and “The Yellow Wallpaper”.
“The Cottagette” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman features the genre of “Idyllic”. The story features two women, named Malda, an artist and Lois, a pianist, who move to a peaceful, private, and picturesque cottagette in a rural area, with delicious meals just a few minutes away. The two friends also meet Ford Matthews, a writer full of ambition, who Malda ends up marrying.
The story paints an idyllic picture when Malda is describing her experience, cottagette and surrounding area:
“Never did I know the real joy and peace of living, before that blessed summer at “High Court”.”.
“…from the outside you wouldn’t have believed it, it looked so small; but small as it was it harbored harbored a miracle–a real bathroom with water piped from mountain springs.”.
“Our windows opened into the green shadiness, the soft brownness, the bird-inhabited quiet flower-starred woods.”.
Malda describes visiting the cottagette as one of her best experiences and describes the stunning view that her windows open up to.
Later in the story, Malda, is persuaded by her friend Lois to live more of a domestic life, in order to appeal to Matthews. Malda, who enjoys creating embroidery, has to give up her passion, due to a lack of time stemming from cooking and cleaning around the house.
One day, as the cottagette begins resembles less of a cozy home and more of a crowded apartment due to Lois’ mother moving in, Matthews offers to take Malda on a hike. They reach a spot where they sit down and eat. Malda describes the idyllic scene:
“We saw the round sun setting at one end of a world view, and the round moon rising at the other; calmly shining each on each.”.
It is at this point where Matthews proposes to Malda but only on one condition, that Malda leaves the domestic life to Matthews and she picks up embroidery again. She is hesitant at first but Matthews reveals that he has experience as a cook and would have no problem earning a living as a cook. The story ends with an idyllic compromise and now Malda gets to marry someone who she loves and loves her.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is of the gothic genre. The protagonist and her husband, John, stay in an old home, so that John can help his wife recover from her failing mental state.
Right from the beginning, the story makes its gothic tones clear:
“A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity – but that would be asking too much of fate! Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it. Else, why would should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?”
As the story progresses, so does the wife’s mental illness. She begins to develop an unhealthy obsession with the yellow wallpaper that decorates the room she is confined to. She begins to imagine smells and see figures inside the wallpaper.
“But there is something else about that paper-the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here.”.
“John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall-paper till I felt creepy. The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.”.
The ending of the story is not a happy one and leaves the reader with a sense of uncertainty for the wife and John. At this point of the story, the wife’s mental state has almost completely deteriorated and only a fragment of it remains. She is convinced that she is a figure that is confined to the wallpaper and to prevent herself from being sent back, she tears down the wallpaper. This causes John to come rushing to the door, trying frantically to open the locked door, only to be greeted by his wife who has lost her grip on reality.
“ “I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”. ”.
The story does not have a happy conclusion and leaves the reader with a sense of uncertainty regarding the fate of both the wife and John.