The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.
The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.
Written from a feminist perspective, often focusing on the inferior status accorded to women by society, the tales include "Turned," an ironic story with a startling twist, in which a husband seduces and impregnates a naïve servant; "Cottagette," concerning the romance of a young artist and a man who's apparently too good to be true; "Mr. Peebles' Heart," a liberating tale of a fiftyish shopkeeper whose sister-in-law, a doctor, persuades him to take a solo trip to Europe, with revivifying results; "The Yellow Wallpaper"; and three other outstanding stories.
These charming tales are not only highly readable and full of humor and invention, but also offer ample food for thought about the social, economic, and personal relationship of men and women — and how they might be improved.
Diagnosed by her physician husband with a “temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency” after the birth of her child, a woman is urged to rest for the summer in an old colonial mansion. Forbidden from doing work of any kind, she spends her days in the house’s former nursery, with its barred windows, scratched floor, and peeling yellow wallpaper.
In a private journal, the woman records her growing obsession with the “horrid” wallpaper. Its strange pattern mutates in the moonlight, revealing what appears to be a human figure in the design. With nothing else to occupy her mind, the woman resolves to unlock the mystery of the wallpaper. Her quest, however, leads not to the truth, but into the darkest depths of madness.
A masterly use of the unreliable narrator and a scathing indictment of patriarchal medical practices, The Yellow Wallpaper is a true American classic.
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Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband has confined her to the upstairs bedroom of a house he has rented for the summer. She is forbidden from working and has to hide her journal from him, so she can recuperate from what he calls a temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency, a diagnosis common to women in that period. The windows of the room are barred, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, allowing her husband to control her access to the rest of the house.
The story depicts the effect of confinement on the narrator's mental health and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw - not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper - the smell! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.
In the end, she imagines there are women creeping around behind the patterns of the wallpaper and comes to believe she is one of them. She locks herself in the room, now the only place she feels safe, refusing to leave when the summer rental is up. For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.
A woman gradually suffers a mental breakdown as a result of confinement and denial of her creative energies by her husband.
In addition to the title story, there are seven short stories collected here that combine humor, anger, and startling vision to suggest how women's "place" in society should be changed to benefit all. The nonfiction selections are from Gilman's The Man-Made World: Our Androcentric Culture and her masterpiece, Women And Economics, which was translated into seven languages and established her international reputation as a theorist.
Also included in a delightful excerpt from Gilman's utopian novel, Herland, an acidly funny tale about three American male explorers who stumble into an all-female society and begin their odyssey by insisting, "This is a civilized country . . . there must be men." Gilman's analyses of economic and women's issues are as incisive and relevant today as they were upon their original publication. This volume is an unprecedented opportunity to rediscover a powerful American writer.
From the Paperback edition.
In this haunting short story, a woman details her confinement in an old mansion following the birth of her child. Obsessed by the pattern of the wallpaper in the room she is unable to escape, Jane slowly descends into madness. Delving into issues of mental health and women's rights, this work of early feminist literature continues to captivate readers.
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity.”—James Baldwin
From the Paperback edition.
In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See takes us on a journey back to a captivating era of Chinese history and delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she has written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
Arguing for both legal reforms and a social revolution, he focuses on women's exclusion from the political process, their lack of any rights in marriage, and the benefits to be obtained by their liberation. Moreover, if they are to share the freedoms enjoyed by men, equal opportunities for employment and education for women are also necessary.
For its time, the work was radical and far-reaching in its demands; but despite its repeated emphasis on forms of oppression and recognition of the difficulties endured by women, it is essentially an optimistic work maintaining a firm belief that increased equality and liberty for women were inevitable.
Carefully researched and clearly expressed with great logic and consistency, the book remains a landmark in the struggle for human rights. In this inexpensive edition, it will certainly be welcomed by feminists but will also appeal to anyone interested in the philosophical, human, and social issues underlying the idea of freedom and equality for all people, regardless of gender.
By presenting the novellas in light of such texts as Wollstonecraft’s letters, her polemical and educational prose, similar works by other feminists and political reformists, the literature of sentiment, and contemporary medical texts, this edition encourages an appreciation of the complexity and sophistication of Wollstonecraft’s writing goals as a radical feminist in the 1790s.