Original Publication Date: 1892
Genre: short story
Topics: feminism, madness
Review by heidenkind:
THE PAPER, THE OMINOUS WALLPAPER.
A young wife is sentenced to forced inactivity by her husband and doctor because she has a predilection for hysterics. Left alone in a room with incredibly ugly wallpaper, she gradually goes mad.
For the longest time I was under the impression The Yellow Wallpaper was a novel--so much has been written about it, much more than the actual story itself, which is actually pretty short. But The Yellow Wallpaper definitely packs a punch. I don't know about y'all, but if I was trapped in a room all day, I'd definitely go crazy, with or without ugly wallpaper. Although the wallpaper certainly wouldn't help.
The wallpaper, of course, is a metaphor. Personally I think it represents the outside world. At first the narrator wants to change the wallpaper, but her hubby is like, "If we change the wallpaper in here, then we'll have to change in it the kitchen, and the living room, and the dining room [strange that he assumes she'll want to redecorate rooms she's not allowed to go into]; besides, we're just renting this house! Can't you deal with the wallpaper for a little while longer?" No one give this guy a copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, he'd go crazy with it. Since his wife can't exercise any control over her own small sphere and change the wallpaper that she hates, she retreats into her own mind.
I also found the role of Jennie really interesting in this story. Apparently she's the housekeeper or some sort of servant, but she's allowed much more leeway than the narrator is. Was Charlotte Perkins Gilman making some sort of statement about class and the oppression of women? If she was saying lower class women enjoyed more freedom than upper-class women, I'd have to say that's patently ridiculous. However, Gilman might simply be making a statement about the importance of women contributing to society through work.
This was a very well-written story that fostered a feeling of paranoia and reminded me a lot of The Bell Jar, which I read in high school. It has a Gothic feeling to it, what with the untrustworthy servants and suspicious husband, and ominous house. I kind of wish we'd read this in high school instead of The Bell Jar.
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