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Book Shortage

Chronicling my 2015 reads on this swanky new website.

Messages in The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Elaine Hedges

"There are things in that paper which nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day"

 

The Yellow Wallpaper tells the story of a woman driven mad by enforced confinement after the birth of her child. Isolated in a colonial mansion in the middle of nowhere, forced to sleep in an attic nursery with barred windows and sickly yellow wallpaper, she writes. She craves intellectual stimulation, activity and understanding but instead she is ordered to her bedroom to rest and "pull herself together." Here, slowly but surely, the tortuous pattern of the wallpaper winds its way into the recesses of her mind. The reader witnesses the character gradually lose her mind.

 

1. Preserving creativity and self-expression - I felt that the unnamed woman in the story was driven insane partly by her inability to express herself, she is forced to pretend she is happy in her marriage. When her writing is ultimately taken away from her, this is her imagination being repressed. But for someone in her state, being able to express herself would have done more to help her than repressing her thoughts and her imagination. The author is attempting to address the issue of repressing creativity, and how it may harm someone suffering post partum depression.

 

2. The wallpaper represents the structure of a happy, traditional family, a symbol of the domestic life that women are forced to live. She is driven mad by this too, she finds it tedius and confining, maybe even unfashionable/outdated. Through these thoughts there's a sense of clarity that she is being trapped by the expectations society has placed upon her.

 

3. Authority - there is no doubt that the authoritative voices in the story are that of her husband and the medical professionals. She is nothing more than a patient who needs to "sit still and be quiet". She has no power to change her situation and her opinions carry very little weight.

 

Overall I found this story unsettling and creepy in a sense that, you can never escape the place your mind takes you. The added factor that no one is on her side further demonstrates this. A really well-crafted piece of writing and perfect character build up for such a short story.