Either this wallpaper goes, or I do. -Oscar Wilde
That's how the protagonist of The Yellow Wallpaper feels about the decor of her room. The lady of the story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is stuck in what sounds to me like the ugliest room in the world. The wallpaper eventually drives her insane and I probably would end up right there with her.
I really want to talk about this story and since it's only 15 pages long and free, I think you all can go and read it so I don't spoil it for you. Go now.... No, really... I'm waiting...
Are you ready? Let's go!
Was that a freaky story or what? I just sneaks up on you.
The Yellow Wallpaper is told as a diary of a woman recovering from childbirth but appears to be suffering from postpartum depression. She doesn't even want to be with her baby. Her husband, a physician, thinks he knows what's best for her and prescribes the "rest cure." Basically, she has to stay alone in a room all day "resting." Unsurprisingly, this doesn't work. She becomes fixated on the ugly yellow wallpaper in the room. She sees faces and eventually convinces herself that a woman is trapped behind it. That's really telling isn't it? A woman (her) is trapped in the room. This woman ends up creeping out of the wall at night.
He is very careful and loving and hardly lets me stir without special direction.Can I just say what a jerk the husband is? He doesn't listen to her when she says she might be fine physically but mentally she is not. He doesn't want to hear it. Is this the Tom Cruise method of dealing with lady problems? Can't she express how she feels and tell the
She tamps down her feelings but they end up coming out in strange ways. She tears at the wallpaper trying to let the woman out. A shadowy woman she imagines creeping out of the wall and escaping out the window. Soon there are several women in the wallpaper and she believes she is one of them. By the end, she's gone completely batty and locks herself in the room. Did you notice the references to suicide- the rope, the chair, jumping out the window- and how even at this point she doesn't speak of them directly? She's still trying to be the 'good woman' who wouldn't do something like that.
So how about that wallpaper, huh? I was surprised at how visual the story is. It's almost cinematic. You can almost see those bulging eyes watching you and imagine the shadow women creeping around behind it. It freaked me out. I wondered about that wallpaper though. Would she have been driven mad without it? What had the previous occupants seen that made them tear at it?
From what I've read The Yellow Wallpaper was considered 'lost' until it started showing up in universities in the 1970s. Understandable, considering its heavy feminist theme. I wish I had read it in my university days. I also wonder how I would have reacted to this story if I had read it just after having a baby. I never had any serious issues with postpartum depression (though I did have anxiety) but it was always something that was on my mind. I warned my husband to get me to a doctor if he found me doing anything 'weird.' We're so aware of it now. The rest cure would have made things worse. Charlotte suffered from it herself and was given that prescription. It nearly did her in. What did they know about hormones in 1891? The husband in the story is unable to believe in anything he can't see and since he can't see what is going on within her body the problem doesn't exist.
I loved this story not just for the gothic elements but because of how it made me think and sympathize with the protagonist. The Yellow Wallpaper is also part of a collection of Charlotte Perkins Gilman stories by Penguin titled Herland and Selected Stories. I must get a copy!