The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper is the latest short story to cross my path and catch my attention. It is from author Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
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Have you read The Yellow Wallpaper? Come on in and let me tell you about it!
About The Yellow Wallpaper
In a long-unoccupied mansion, a new mother is confined to what was once a nursery. She is assured by her physician husband that it is a necessary cure to ease her “nervous depression.”
Isolated and powerless, she becomes obsessed with the peeling, sickly colored wallpaper. In it, she sees what no one else can: a prisoner desperate to escape its maddening design.
A condemnation of the patriarchy, The Yellow Wallpaper explores with terrifying economy the oppression, grave misunderstanding, and willful dismissal of women in late nineteenth-century society.
Thoughts on The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper was written in 1892, and I think that needs to be taken into account when reading this, because otherwise it is absolutely infuriating right from the beginning.
Charlotte is clearly suffering from what we can likely presume is postpartum depression, and her husband stuffs her into an upstairs room that she didn’t want, for her own good. She isn’t allowed to work or go out for walks around the grounds, or have visitors.
She literally is allowed to eat, sleep, and stare at the walls, per doctor’s orders, and the doctor is her husband. This was written in a time when mental illness, especially in women, was deemed “hysterical” and “nervous” or “anxious” and dismissed.
Her husband is often condescending, reminding her that he is the expert and his “cures” are for her own good and that’s all he cares about, so she needs to follow doctor’s orders. His care transforms into oppression very quickly.
Charlotte stares at the wallpaper until it starts to come alive to her, moving around, keeping secrets, and more. She spirals completely out of control at the end, and that spiral makes perfect sense.
Final Thoughts on The Yellow Wallpaper
In The Yellow Wallpaper, we watch Charlotte deteriorate into a full blown breakdown at the end. She hid the deterioration quite well from her husband, as he tried to convince her that she was physically fine, and demanded she speed up the process of getting better. She claims she is just tired, and hides everything else she is experiencing.
She puts on a brave face, and I think that is a truly cautionary tale, that is still an issue today. Many times the people who are suffering the most will appear to be the happiest and not show a single sign there is anything wrong.
This story is not a happy one, not remotely close. But it certainly evokes conversations about mental illness and taking those who suffer seriously. For that reason alone, I firmly believe that more people need to read this and have those important conversations.
Have you read The Yellow Wallpaper or any other writing from Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
About the Author
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935), also known as Charlotte Perkins Stetson, was a prominent American sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform.
Though her schooling was limited and erratic – leaving her largely self-taught – she amassed a breadth of knowledge, pursuing intellectual studies, artistic endeavors, and feminist advocacy.
She was a utopian feminist during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women, and she served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. Her best remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, which she wrote after a severe bout of postpartum depression.
She was the daughter of Frederic B. Perkins.
Purchasing The Yellow Wallpaper
If you are interested in buying the paperback version of The Yellow Wallpaper, click here.
Click here for the Kindle version.
Click here for my favorite Kindle I currently own.
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