In addition to being a Bechdel-test-passing female-led story by a woman author, the other reason I wanted to share this is because it reminded me of “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
“When Mamma was about ten years old they sent her to cousins in Brooklyn, who had children of their own, and knew more about bringing them up. She staid there till she was married: she didn’t go to Vermont in all that time, and of course hadn’t seen her sisters, for they never would leave home for a day. They couldn’t even be induced to go to Brooklyn to her wedding so she and father took their wedding trip up there.”
“And that’s why we are going up there on our own?”
“Don’t, Roger; you have no idea how loud you speak.”
“You never say so except when I am going to say that one little word.”
“Well, don’t say it, then or say it very, very quietly.”
“Well, what was the queer thing?”
“When they got to the house, mother wanted to take father right off into the little room; she had been telling him about it, just as I am going to tell you and she had said that of all the rooms that one was the only one that seemed pleasant to her. She described the furniture and the books and paper and everything, and said it was on the north side, between the front and back room. Well, when they went to look for it, there was no little room there; there was only a shallow china-closet. She asked her sisters when the house had been altered and a closet made of the room that used to be there. They both said the house was exactly as it had been built–that they had never made any changes, except to tear down the old wood-shed and build a smaller one.
Whereas “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) is a psychological horror story about domestic abuse and perceived hysteria, “The Little Room” is a bit more low key and not just focused on the married couple’s cognitive dissonance.
Yet, a story about a woman seeing something differently than her husband and his subsequent dismissal of her discomfort, fear, and intellect (because patriarchy) is terrifying to me. The passage below was particularly chilling, especially when we consider films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, which carry the same theme. What I like about Yale Wynne’s and Perkins’ treatment of the subject is that we the readers are meant to side with the protagonist, not her husband, and they are well-crafted critiques of the idea of hysteria and the systematic fear and distrust of women.
Rated PG. This story isn’t exactly “horror” but is spooky as it deals with the psychological elements of creepy houses and crappy spouses. Listen to it on Podcastle (43 min) or read it on Gaslight. (The irony does not escape me.)
*See this passage in particular: [SPOILERS]
He paused for an appreciable instant, and then said kindly enough, but in a voice that cut her deeply,
“I am glad this ridiculous thing is ended; don’t let us speak of it again.”
“Ended!” said she. “How ended?” And somehow her voice sounded to her as her mother’s voice had when she stood there and questioned her sisters about the little room. She seemed to have to drag her words out. She spoke slowly: “It seems to me to have only just begun in my case. It was just so with mother when she–”
“I really wish, Margaret, you would let it drop. I don’t like to hear you speak of your mother in connection wit it. It–” He hesitated, for was not this their wedding-day? “It doesn’t seem quite the thing, quite delicate, you know, to use her name in the matter.”
She saw it all now: he didn’t believe her. She felt a chill sense of withering under his glance.
“Come,” he added, “let us go out, or into the dining-room, somewhere, anywhere, only drop this nonsense.”