The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
is a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and published in 1892. The story is told through the journal entries of a woman who is suffering from what is likely postpartum depression and is being treated by her physician husband. The story is often cited as a feminist work and a critique of the medical treatment of women during the late 19th century.
The narrator, who remains unnamed throughout the story, has been prescribed the “rest cure” by her husband, which involves complete isolation and inactivity. The narrator is confined to a room with yellow wallpaper that she becomes increasingly obsessed with. As the story progresses, the narrator’s mental state deteriorates, and she becomes convinced that there is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper.
The story is a commentary on the limited roles available to women in the late 19th century and the oppressive societal norms that governed their lives. The narrator is not allowed to work or pursue her interests and is relegated to the role of wife and mother. She is also subjected to a medical treatment that is ultimately damaging to her mental health.
The yellow wallpaper is a powerful symbol throughout the story, representing the narrator’s own confinement and oppression. The wallpaper is described as having a “sickly, sulphurous” color that is repulsive to the narrator. As her obsession with the wallpaper grows, the narrator becomes increasingly detached from reality, leading to a shocking conclusion.
Gilman’s writing style is highly emotive and vivid, capturing the narrator’s descent into madness with great clarity. The story is also notable for its use of unreliable narration, as the reader is forced to question the narrator’s perception of reality.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” has become a classic of feminist literature and is often taught in literature and women’s studies courses. The story has been adapted into numerous stage productions and has been the subject of much critical analysis and discussion.
Overall, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a powerful and unsettling story that highlights the societal constraints placed on women during the late 19th century. Through the use of vivid imagery and powerful symbolism, Gilman delivers a poignant critique of the medical treatment of women and the limitations placed on their lives.