July 19, 2012

Why do we sit here, mother?

The July 19, 1898 issue of Time and the Hour included an article titled "The Twilight" (noted as "An Imitation" of a Belgian named Maurice Maeterlinck). The author of the piece was Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It features a dialogue between a mother, a father, and a child which takes place in a wooded area covered in a "dim half light" with a gloomy castle casting a deep shadow.

The child asks, "Why do we sit here, mother?" When father answers, the child seems confused and asks why his mother did not answer. "He always knows," she responds, with apparent hesitation; the child wonders if he really does. It is too dark, according to the father, and so it is best to sit. But the child is incredulous and says he does not really know. "It does not matter," the mother responds. "He is your father."

The ambiguity in the story is palpable; both the child and the reader are kept in the dark (pun intended). As night is falling, the child is restless and wants to go to bed. His parents tell him, however, that they cannot go back home. Soon, it is revealed that the father must protect them, and that he has a gun. The child does not believe night is falling, but the day is dawning. And the story ends.

The short article makes an interesting companion to Gilman's more famous work, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (which she wrote about two years later). Though not as grotesque, "The Twilight" gives the reader a feeling of uneasiness and worry. Further, it opens up a feeling of distrust for the male figure, who attempts to subdue the child's free-spirited nature and enthusiasm. One can see this story taking place within view of the window from Gilman's room with its yellow paper.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, it's definitely an uncomfortable one to read, even though there's no gore or monsters or the like. It's short, too, so give it a shot!

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