“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892. It depicts the experience of a woman who, while spending Summer together with her husband and his sister in a beautiful colonial mansion, struggles to deal with the monotonous daily life she is constrained to live as a result of a resting cure prescribed to her as a mean of treatment for her “nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency”.
The experience, narrated from this woman’s perspective in the form of her journal, portrays the negative implications of the all so limited Victorian understanding and treatment of a woman’s psychological functioning and the expression of her psyche in the everyday life. At the end of the 19th Century, women were still considered psychologically frail and their intellectual aspirations were not recognized, but rather mocked and smothered.
The main character of “The Yellow Paper” is such a woman, whose intellectual needs cannot find the proper expression in her married life, especially when her husband, a well-known physician, is the one observing, diagnosing and recommending treatment for what he considers a nervous condition. Isolated in this big house, but mainly to only one room, a former nursery, with nearly no pastime activities aside from her writing in her journal, though not allowed, she starts to develop an increased interest regarding the room’s wallpaper and especially its pattern. Although little in comparison to her needs, aspirations, and capacities, the wallpaper becomes the sole mental stimulation and soon, the interactions take a darker turn as new aspects emerge.
Although it is very tempting, I will keep away from character analysis for this book so that I will not spoil your reading experience and most of all, that of finding out what the major twist of this short story is.
Even though the text’s main role was that of criticizing the oppressive attitude the medical profession endorsed regarding women and their intellectual potential, the book has a ghost-story feel to it as well.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a very short, and yet very generous piece of writing. There is a lot to be understood from this story about the Victorian society, women’s role and rights, marriage, mental health, inner psychological dimensions, the cognitive stimulation-health ratio and many more. The portrayal of the initial mechanism of projection is wonderful in this short story, comparable to that in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.
I really enjoyed reading “The Yellow Paper”. It provides the right amount of unexpected in the middle of an otherwise idyllic setting.
In short, I would describe it as an intense thriller compressed in several pages.
Have you read “The Yellow Wallpaper”? If so, I would be glad to read your opinions.
* You can get a free electronic copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper” on Gutenberg.Org.