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The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins…
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The Yellow Wall-Paper (original 1892; edition 1996)

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Elaine Hedges (Afterword)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,469595,082 (4.02)1 / 228
Member:alceinwdld
Title:The Yellow Wall-Paper
Authors:Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Other authors:Elaine Hedges (Afterword)
Info:The Feminist Press at CUNY (1996), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 64 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, insanity, feminist

Work details

The Yellow Wall-Paper {story} by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)

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Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Brilliant story of madness! Fascinating piece for its historical value as Ms. Gilman is protesting the common treatment at the time the story was written given to women who were suffering "nervous" disorders. A cautionary tale but extremely frightening because of its reality. ( )
  ElizaJane | Jul 25, 2015 |
Interesting read from a different era. Not sure how I really feel even after 2 months. I like dark and books about insanity but this one was a bit out there. ( )
  theeccentriclady | Jul 10, 2015 |
This was probably a 5 star book back when it was written but its setup, an unreliable possibly insane narrator, is now such a familiar trope that it is hard to appreciate in the 21st century. Let me try to contextualize it.

At the time it was written, medicine was in a primitive state. The germ theory of disease was new and not universally accepted, anesthesia was a recent invention, Freud was an unknown and mental illness a mystery. When now we visit a doctor, we do so believing they have skills that have been tested scientifically, but at the time this book was written, a doctor's authority was based more on his cultural standing than his ability to relieve suffering through more than the placebo effect (which is not to be minimized!) The idea that a so-called mental patient could have anything to say for themselves is, remarkably, still controversial today.

We have replaced the "outmoded" religious/moral critiques of behavior with those we believe to be scientific but often the term "healthy" is just a pseudo-objective value judgement reflecting the behaviors our culture finds acceptable. The most accepted treatment of the non-mentally healthy is either to drug it away or to convince the patient that her behavior is irrational and convince her to behave otherwise for her own good. It wasn't that long ago that we condemned the Soviet Union for locking their political dissidents in mental hospitals but we in the West today differ more in degree than in kind.

I say this because it is easy to dismiss the narrator's husband as "the oppressor" but he was merely going along with the accepted treatment of the time, something called the Rest Cure, which made as much sense as many other contemporary medical practices. It's not he, but society as a whole which is her oppressor, something which will in a later age be called "The Patriarchy."

Whatever else you may think of Freud, he understood that his patients had things to say about their condition that made sense if not always taken literally. Incidentally, Freud was also the first to suggest that men could suffer from "hysteria."

We listen to the narrator sympathetically, which no one else in the story attempts to do. We empathize because we know how it feels to be humored and judged and like the narrator, we internalize some of this judgment and see ourselves at fault. She is a prisoner, supposedly for her own good, and even she doubts that her evaluation of the situation is correct. Her powerful description of her own plight told symbolically through the pattern of the yellow wallpaper (which she knows is not part of consensus reality and thus must be kept secret from the others--so much for being out of touch with reality) is beautifully done, better than so many of Gilman's countless imitators.

Written at a time when women weren't listened to and read by me at a time that women are listened to, but only if they talk and act like men,

( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
Have you ever lain in bed and gazed at the shifting shapes in curtains, wallpaper or screens? I have seen so many faces in the green shadecloth outside our bedroom window over the years. Bearded faces, old pointy faces. Hopeless to point them out to other people. They see their own faces. Or don't. I love books that capture that oh so "human" of experiences - the power of imagination and its capacity to cripple or liberate. If you want to get ahead with your reading goal for this year, you can knock this book over in a snap. And it, in turn, will knock you over with the power of suggestion and keep you thinking for a while and yearn for more by this author. Thanks for a great Mother's Day Gift Caspar!
  alexdaw | May 9, 2015 |
A woman, confined to an upper-story bedroom in a creepy house for a "rest cure" following a mental breakdown, becomes obsessed with the hideous yellow wallpaper.

I have read this story a few times and I always forget how creepy and chilling it is, especially the final image. Gilman has a knack of pointing out the horrific things that society does to women. In this story, depriving the narrator of her means of expressing herself and stimulating her brain is just as terrifying as confining her to her room. I believe the narrator was suffering from undiagnosed postpartum depression.

Reread in 2015. ( )
  sturlington | May 4, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gilman, Charlotte Perkinsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hedges, Elaine R.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Farrell, MaggieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
Quotations
There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.
It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the short story, including the Feminist Press Reprint No. 3 edition (1973) and Virago Modern Classic No. 50 (1981). Please do NOT combine with any anthology or other collection, but only with other editions confirmed as having the same contents. Thank you.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
From the back cover:

'It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw - not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old, foul, bad yellow things...It creeps all over the house.'

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrenched this small literary masterpiece from her own experience. Narrated with superb psychological skill and dramatic precision, it tells the story of a nameless woman driven mad by enforced confinement after the birth of her first 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, secretly she does what she has to do - she writes. She craves intellectual stimulation, activity, loving understanding, 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...

First published in 1892, this perfect novel echoes the great stories of Edgar Allen Poe, portraying with chilling power the powerlessness of women within Victorian marriage and the conflicting demands of work, wifehood and motherhood on a woman who longs to be free.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is about a woman who suffers from mental illness after three months of being trapped within her home staring at the same revolting yellow wall paper. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote this story to change people's minds about the role of women in her society, illustrating how women's lack of autonomy is detrimental to their mental, emotional, and even physical well being. The narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper" must do as her husband and male doctor demand, though the treatment they prescribe to her contrasts directly with what she truly needs--mental stimulation, and the freedom to escape the monotony of the room to which she is confined. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was essentially a response to the doctor who tried to cure Charlotte Perkins Gilman of post-partum depression through a "rest cure," Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, and she sent him a copy of the story. Although "The Yellow Wallpaper" is not the first or longest of her works, it is without question Gilman's most famous piece and became a best-seller of the Feminist Press.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0912670096, Paperback)

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The study of a woman's gradual mental breakdown. While taking a rest cure, the wallpaper becomes her focus of discontent. While her madness progresses, so does her awareness of the way her creative energies are curtailed. Her obsession with the wallpaper continues as she struggles to free the woman crawling behind the pattern.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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