“A Whisper in the Dark” by Louisa May Alcott

08Mar05

I feel gypped.

The first (I would have a specific number of pages here for you, but the cat is currently sleeping on top of my book and he is too cute to move) pages of this story develop it into a gothic tale of female fury and victimization. The last couple of pages, however, fail to fulfill the reader’s expectation of another story of victimization (that of Sybil’s mother) and Sybil laments her “own folly” in perpetrating her downfall. And she goes and marries Guy, who I still don’t particularly care for despite Alcott’s efforts to redeem him.

I would have preferred that the story ended with Sybil escaping from the house and running with the knowledge that someone was pursuing her. That ending would suggest that someone was going to place Sybil in another institution because once branded insane women—indeed, people in general—can never lose that label.

Guy’s explanation of the events was the hardest part of the story to read for several reasons. First, I felt like Alcott was destroying the beauty of her piece. Second, I felt like I was being taken by the hand and lead through the dark places of the story, the places where my imagination could fill in the situation, and Alcott was illuminating them to reveal circumstances that I did not like. All of the mystery was sucked out of the story.

Before the story was ruined, I really liked it. It was difficult to read about such a strong young woman being so thoroughly sublimated. Indeed, because she was a strong woman, she was more vulnerable to her uncle and the doctor’s attack. Of course a woman who speaks her mind must be insane.

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