Review of The Birthmark by N. Hawthorne and The Yellow Wallpaper by C. P. Gilman

Not nearly as weird as I had expected from friend’s reviews, but this may have been because The Black Cat by Poe (which I had read prior) set the bar very high. Maybe weird is the wrong word, because both stories had their own weird charm about them. Shocking is probably a more appropriate word to use but I will explain this further later on.

I have decided to review both these texts simultaneously as they are both short stories and alone the reviews would have read short but I will try my best to be most informative as possible.

Unlike many 19th Century novels and stories I didn’t find it too hard to get into the story. The Birthmark has an unexpectedly long beginning sentence but the subject of it made it bearable and then everything after that on the first few pages was fulfilling in that it provides you with a lot of information. The Yellow Wallpaper has in my opinion a much clearer opening sentence that attempts to grab the readers attention. It didn’t quite interest me right away I did have to read on and it was the second sentence that made me want to continue reading more than the first.

Inevitably both stories have to get in as much important information possible crammed into a limited word count but also resist to over inform so that it doesn’t confuse the reader. I can only say that they have managed to do it but it is not surprising being the authors they are.

There were times in The Birthmark where I felt that Hawthorne could have left parts out but he knows best. While reading The Yellow Wallpaper I felt to skip some parts just so I could find out what happens (although I didn’t and it didn’t do me any harm) as it sounded like it repeated parts but this was most likely for emphasis.

Now, as traditional gothic stories both stories provide the generic conventions and this is what as 21st century readers makes the story predictable rather than shocking. In comparison to The Black Cat which contains a bit extra of the surreal and ‘The Uncanny’ as Freud would say, these two stories keep it very close to reality and yet there is the element of the unfamiliarity which still keeps us enticed.

To sum up a very short review of The Birthmark and The Yellow Wallpaper, the two short stories are perfect for a quick relief from reality. Touching on dark matters in a short matter of time it’s more like a train read rather than a bed time read. They wake up your mind to imagination and although imbedded within are some serious conflicts of social, historical contexts, it is quite easy to forget it and lose yourself in the gothic world… If you allow yourself to.


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