Short Story #250: When I Was a Witch by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Title:  When I Was a Witch

Author:  Charlotte Perkins Gilman


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The narrator explains that she didn't understand the terms of her contract with Satan and if she did, she would have lived longer.  On the very hot and tumultuous day of October 30, the narrator was having a horrible time.  All the forces of New York appeared against her.  Frustrated at one point, she wished for all the people who struck horses unnecessarily to feel the pain instead of the horse.  Soon, she witnesses a man whipping a horse and then scream in pain.  Her attention is diverted by a starving cat and she wishes all the cats in the city to be dead.  The outside morning cat falls quiet and she goes to bed.  Over the next day and onward, she makes a variety of wishes that come true.  She goes through the city seeing strange things happen that are not in line with the way things usually go but completely in line with her wishes.  She begins to realize that her wishes are coming true.  Once she realizes it, she decides to make a series of wishes wherein the punishment fits the crime.  She proceeds to wish against a variety of wrongful doers and corrupt people to receive justice in the appropriate ways.  She addresses wrong large and small and even recodes the newspaper's various lies, mistakes, and misrepresentations.  As she made through the different wishes, she came upon one that she realized she had been wanting most.  She wished that all women would realized their full potential.  The wish did not work and in fact, all of her wishes stopped.  She realized that the previous wishes were all spiteful and this was positive and thus, Satan would not answer it.


Overall, this is a fun tale to read and it keeps in with themes by Gilman around women and identity, but unlike If I Were A Man or The Yellow-Wallpaper, it feels a bit too heavy handed in its demeanor.  However, the wishes and the ways those wishes change society for the better are interesting to watch play out in the story.

Short Story #250 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/20/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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