Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1899. She wrote it in response to her own nervous condition, and the suffering she felt when following a doctor’s orders to basically do nothing (including write) in order to cure her symptoms. This story fascinated me the first time I read it because it seemed to me that it was one of the very first clearly written expressions from someone with a mental health illness of what it was like to be inside her mind. The obsession that the main character has with the wallpaper in her room, the old decomposing house, and the way the young mother is shut off from her family and friends, including her own child, leaves you with a dark impression. Even more deranged is the way she writes of the same things over and over, as though she has forgotten what she has written previously, and has been driven into such a state of mind that she is no longer able to comprehend what is really going on around her. Worse yet is the very end of the story, with the image of the now completely escalated young woman crawling eerily around the room, hugging so tightly to the wall that she leaves a mark on it as she continues ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. I think it's important to realize that the wallpaper in the room isn't really the main idea of the story, as one might think. I believe that Gilman was hoping for us to focus on the characters' complete loss of rational thought, and how being locked up in a room has heightened her symptoms. The wallpaper is not what is making her sick. The wallpaper is a victim of her mind; a mind which has been kept depleted by doctor's orders, left to run rampant and feed on the only other thing available to it.

To read The Yellow Wallpaper, follow this link:
The Yellow Wallpaper

To read an explanation by Charlotte Perkins Gilman on why she wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, click here:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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