Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

Turned

In "Turned," the white, middle-class female protagonist, Marion, promises to take care of her domestic servant, Gerta, who has been impregnated by Marion’s husband. The story begins with a description of the women after Greta has broken the news to her mistress, and the parallel images emphasize their unequal sleeping conditions: “Mrs. Marroner lay sobbing on the wide, soft bed . . . Gerta Pertersen lay sobbing on the narrow, hard bed.” These contrasting living conditions take place within the same home. While Gerta, as a live-in maid, is granted only a “poorly finished chamber” in the attic of Marion’s home, Marion sleeps in the comfort of her “richly furnished chamber.” 

In her 1903 treatise, The Home, Its Work and Influence,* Gilman finds it detestable that “Strangers by birth, by class, by race, by education—as utterly alien as it is possible to conceive— these we introduce into our homes—in our very bed chambers. . . . With servants living in our homes by day and night, confronted with our strange customs and new ideas, having our family affairs always before them, and having nothing else in their occupation to offset this interest, we find in this arrangement of life a condition as far removed from privacy as could be imagined" (42).

*Permalink: https://archive.org/download/cu31924076285208

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