The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult/Adult
Genre: Horror, Gothic, Classic
Release Date: First pub. 1890
Synopsis: First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper – a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, The Yellow Wall-Paper stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.
Such a deliciously creepy story this book is! The Yellow Wallpaper is an unnerving story, to say the least. The short story sent shivers down my spine quite frequently. But this is also a short story that made me feel a quiet sadness that I didn’t know I was feeling until I finished the last sentence.
With only a few more than ten pages, The Yellow Wallpaper packs quite a punch–much like Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day. It always surprises me when I read stories that are able to show so much in such a small amount of pages.
The Yellow Wallpaper is written as a journal by a woman who has been given a country rest cure. Confined in a room with barred windows, nailed-down furniture, a gated door, and ugly yellow wallpaper whose design has no pattern, the woman is denied any meaningful things to do, no stimulation for her mind. This clashes with her already mildly unstable mind and causes her to grow more obsessive and insane.
Gilman writes the story in such a way that it is actually hard to see when the woman’s sanity starts to crumble. The reader will be probably so enraptured that they will only notice the signs. It is only when you get to end that you really realize that the woman has been driven completely insane by the confinement, but by then it is already way to late… Her mind is already screaming.
The yellow wallpaper that the story is centered mostly upon is quite the mystery. There are many ways one can interpret the ‘meaning’ behind it. One could say that it represents how the woman has been imprisoned by her unstable state of mind. One could also say that the wallpaper represents how women in that time have been limited as people and mostly put under the rule of men (this seems to be the most shared interpretation). Again, there are many ways to interpret the story.
The writing is surprisingly light compared to many other classics. The prose is clean and pretty, but not heavy and wordy. And I loved it that way. It was easy to follow and compelling… It was the very definition of ‘readable’. Even with my tired, frazzled mind I was able to follow it.
And I must talk about the ending! I don’t want to spoil it by saying exactly what happened, but I do want to tell you all that it is as shocking as it is haunting. Never have I been so frightened (that seems like the best word) by an ending…
This is a breathtaking story that obviously had a lot of thought put into it. I did some research on the author and found some interesting facts about her reasons behind writing this beast (and beauty) of a short story. You can read it here.