Death and the Woman by Gertrude Atherton (1892)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror, February 25, 2014 Women In Horror Month
Death as persona is a classic technique in horror stories. Today, I thought I’d try something different: instead of creating an introduction of the story, I’d string a few lines from the text to tempt you to read this author, Gertrude Atherton. She wrote some 40 novels and five volumes of short stories as well as nonfiction. Her fiction was quite modern for the American woman seeking emancipation at the turn of the century. A woman writing about women, their inner conflicts and struggles in society, politics, and sexuality, and in this story, Death and the Woman, a wife facing the terror of her husband’s death.
If you’ve ever stood at the bedside of a dying relative or friend, this story will certainly punctuate that experience of awe and fear. If you’ve never witnessed death enter, well, this story will give you a foreboding peek into the final moments of life.
Where was Death?
She had heard of the power of the corpse to drive brave men to frenzy, and had wondered …
She knew that it was Death who was coming to her through the silent deserted house; knew that it was the sensitive ear of her intelligence that heard him, not the dull, coarse-grained ear of the body.
The dying man took no notice of her, and she opened his gown and put her cheek to his heart, calling him again.
Read Death and the Woman at American Literature. https://americanliterature.com/author/gertrude-atherton/short-story/death-and-the-woman
Listen (by candlelight as flickering shadows will add a thrilling atmosphere to the fine prose) to the audio at Librivox
Read more short stories by Gertrude Atherton at American Literature https://americanliterature.com/author/gertrude-atherton
Women In Horror Month (WiHM). One of the most prolific authors in gothic and dark literature in our modern day is without question Joyce Carol Oates. Who doesn’t know this author’s reputation for her visceral and surreal twisted stories and psychological horrors. Many know her work in this genre from Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque. You won’t find a ghost haunting a house so much as you’ll find the inner hauntings of the self and these are often times more horrific than any mere ghost.
Oates says in Reflections on the Grotesque … “…This is the forbidden truth, the unspeakable taboo—that evil is not always repellent but frequently attractive; that it has the power to make of us not simply victims, as nature and accident do, but active accomplices.”
Where Are You going, Where Have You Been? (1996) is about a teenage girl and a sinister stalker. This is not a typical horror story, but a powerful and chilling tale with high tension writing. Do read it slowly and thoughtfully to get full potency. If you’ve ever felt yourself alone and vulnerable, this tale will get into your head and under your skin. Some find the ending powerful; others find it too subtle. You decide.
Read Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? at University of San Francisco
Joyce Carol Oates
Other Reading Web Sites to Visit
WiHM Contemporary Horror Short Stories at Sirens Call Publications
For Authors/Writers: The Writer Unboxed