the yellow wallpaper

Title :: The Yellow Wallpaper
Author :: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Completed :: Mar 31 2008
Challenges :: 1001 Books
Rating :: 3/5

I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin. It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions. The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.

Gilman's short story is based on the journal entries of an American woman in the 19th century. She is brought to live temporarily in a house while she rests from what is diagnosed as a temporary nervous depression but more than likely is postpartum depression resulting from the recent birth of her child. For various reason she and her husband occupy the upstairs nursery and it is here where she is faced with a wallpaper that repulses her and yet draws her into its madness.

The description of the wallpaper is altogether poetic, the language used to describe the protaganist's enticement and fear of this peeling wallpaper, its smell, its allure and its motion is fairly creepy. Is it any wonder under the stress that she was under that she was led to believe that things were trying to come out of the wallpaper? That in the end she went 'mad'? I think what's really creepy is that this is something that really could have happened when women's health was not understood as it is today (or more so anyway). Many women probably suffered from these types of delusions. The mind is very powerful and can create all kinds of scenarios especially when its lonely and misunderstood. It is outrageous to think that it was believed she should rest instead of work, that she should remain isolated instead of engaging in society or that she should be separated from her child instead of trying to be a mother. These things don't lead to recuperation if anything they would make anyone crazier.

My bedroom wall at home has a texturized pattern and I can remember lying awake at times visualizing shapes from the texture. Some shapes were comforting, puppies, pyramids, a teddy bear and then there were some that were frightening - aliens! But luckily for me I didn't go crazy and I was able to remedy those (that I could see) by easily covering them with pillows. Its amazing what the mind's eye can see when it wants to.

Other Thoughts ::
: a striped armchair
: a work in progress
: you're next - leave a comment!

. listening . writing to reach you . travis . the man who .


posted by Ashleigh @ 18:55,


At 15 April 2008 at 07:12, Blogger BooksPlease said...

I really must read this book. It does sound creepy and awful to realise how women were treated.

I also remember staring at the wallpaper in my bedroom as a child and seeing all sorts of things in there - a bit like looking at the flames in an open fire.

At 16 April 2008 at 15:55, Blogger Danielle said...

I loved this story when I read it a few weeks back. I would go mad being stuck in a room, with no book, with that wallpaper, too!


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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