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The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,3601124,404 (4.03)1 / 313
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 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...… (more)
  1. 50
    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (SandSing7)
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    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (wonderlake)
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    The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood (Anonymous user)
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    Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (KayCliff)
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    The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Maggie O'Farrell says that The Yellow Wallpaper was a major influence in writng The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
  7. 00
    The Widow's House by Carol Goodman (sturlington)
    sturlington: The Widow's House makes several allusions to "The Yellow Wallpaper."
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    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (TheLittlePhrase)
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    The Shutter of Snow by Emily Holmes Coleman (meggyweg)
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    The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski (SJaneDoe)
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    The Vegetarian by Han Kang (MissBrangwen)
    MissBrangwen: Although they were written in different periods of time, both texts reminded me of each other because of their dealing with the female experience of confinement.
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English (109)  German (1)  All languages (110)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
The long and short of it is, "The Yellow Wallpaper" really is an excellent example of how women were treated in the past and how we are still treated in the present. I got into a fight last night with a long time friend who I think has reached the toxic level of friendship for me. Every time we hang out I am always worried about what will I say or do or not say or do that is going to set him off to end up yelling at me. Though of course he does not consider it yelling, because there may be a tone, he doesn't raise his voice. And every time afterwards I am always worried that maybe I was in the wrong and end up apologizing even though I know I am right. It just starts to feel easier to just go along and not say anything. And man oh man, who knew this book would be perfect for when I got home.

The narrator is "resting" after giving birth to her first born child it seems. Her husband, who is also a doctor, is telling her constantly that she needs to rest, that she doesn't need to concern herself with household matters, or even their child. Based on what the narrator writes about her husband, the word condescending asshat is not too harsh.

Reading the narrator's journal through a period of three months we follow her as she finds herself getting more and more obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom that she is sleeping in. With barred windows, peeling paper, and the room having an odor only she can smell, she asks to be moved or to at least re-do the room and is once again put off by her husband because he doesn't think that would be good for her and doesn't want to spend the funds to re-do a room when they are only there for three months.

Eventually the wallpaper that she despises ends up being her friend and then she starts to see many hidden women in it looking to get out.

I absolutely loved the ending. I think for me I liked it because not only was she proven right in her assertions about her own body/mind (which is sad that she was being ignored). But I loved the imagery of her and what occurred between her and her husband in the end. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
I was reminded of this little piece by a fellow reviewer and while I read it way back in college, several things still stick in my mind.

First, the prevalent psychology of Freud during the time-period: This novel portrays the kind of circular thinking that could happen to anyone in that particular time and station. Any person of a protected, apparently weak, and especially underclass station could find the confines so stifling that it might break their mind. Of course, this isn't to say that every woman had it this bad, or that they had weak minds. I'm just saying that Freud pointed out something that was happening during this time-period and all of a sudden he gets catapulted into prominence for stating the blinding obvious. Going crazy was an escape.

This led to the arrival of hoards of writers, revolutionaries, men and women of all walks of life all deciding that they'd show how much they weren't influenced by Freud. There was the huge push to make things equal between the sexes.

Hell, I think that part was very healthy. Ms. Gilman was a perfect revolutionary. She showed us how insane a person could get being put into that society, under those social rules and regulations, and even made her character sympathetic.

This is one of those works where it is so much more satisfying to read when we understand where it came from. It's even worse when we understand that this was pretty much a regular part of the times.

And then, there's Oscar Wilde.
He had a speech on his deathbed (perhaps apocryphal), where he saw the ugly purple wallpaper on the wall next to his deathbed and made a pronouncement, "Either this wallpaper goes, or I go!"

And so he died.

Death by wallpaper.

Was this a commentary? Who knows. Perhaps it was a slight twist and turn in medium, a hidden knife, a big idea slammed by wit.

But then, I'm only a man, but I'm proud to say that this story sent me on a long kick of feminism literature back in college. I'm sorry to see that the whole subject is so out of vogue. The backlash backlashed and backlashed again briefly and backlashed until I'm hella unsure where the pendulum has landed. I'm pleased to see it still lives a bit in SF and Fantasy, but but the rest of the genres seem to backsliding more often than they get it right.

I mean, what the hell is a Romance novel, except a means to pigeonhole women into a narrowly confined role and teach them to stare at the pretty wallpaper? Some YA novels feature nothing but abusive and truly creep-the-fuck-out characters. Where the hell is the lost ideal of equality between the sexes? All I see these days is frustrated sexual fantasies that rely more on power plays than love.

Someone, please let me know where I can get some relief!

Anyway, I always liked this story, and it allowed me to flex my imagination and enjoy the surrealism of the literature of the day in a way a little more accessible than others of the type that I just couldn't get into as much.

It was still a mindfuq, and put into perspective, I think the novelette gave a great deal of meaning to women. People's perceptions of themselves change over time, obviously, reacting to past mistakes, past preconceptions, but as a cross-gender analysis, I have to say that no one is completely free of the wallpaper.

Anyone can be caught up in their social roles. I know I've felt as trapped as our crazy protagonist. It's not just women who have needed to gain a measure of self-awareness.

We all need to say, "Enough is Enough, Already!" ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
True horror is what people do to each other, meaning well or not, or what they do to themselves. But the wallpaper does sound gruesome. ( )
  quondame | May 2, 2020 |
If you buy the Kindle version of this book for FREE, you can add the Audible for only .99!

This is one of my favorite novellas of all time. ( )
  Charrlygirl | Mar 22, 2020 |
Very engaging writing and narration, but became disinterested with the general story itself. ( )
  Treyvon | Mar 19, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gilman, Charlotte Perkinsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hedges, Elaine R.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Farrell, MaggieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potter, KirstenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
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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Book description
"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.
A woman and her husband rent a summer house, but what should be a restful getaway turns into a suffocating psychological battle. This chilling account of postpartum depression and a husband’s controlling behavior in the guise of treatment will leave you breathless.
This Inwood Commons Modern Edition updates Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic so that it’s as easy to read and as relevant as if it was written today. The book also includes the author’s argument to Congress for women’s voting rights, her reasons for writing The Yellow Wallpaper, two essays from modern scholars, and the original unedited versions in appendices.
Haiku summary
She makes her own friends
to escape her depression.
Fall into madness.

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