Vin's Reviews > The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
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Apr 12, 11

Read on April 12, 2011

Sequestered to Her Own Study
Reflecting on her own case and treatment of depression, Charlotte Perkins Gilman pens a tale of the detrimental effects of the imposed therapy of “perfect rest”, confinement, lack of social interaction and relinquished control of one’s own life (434). In “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” the narrator has to hide the fact that she is writing when alone in her restricted living quarters because the men in her life, who are doctors, say her imagination and thoughts are the problem. I think that because all control is taken away from the narrator, her days focus on her solitary surrounding and obsession grows with the yellow wall-paper, which I see as a metaphor for her jailor. Gilman addresses issues of women of the late nineteenth century, their lack sovereignty over their own destiny, treatment and even thoughts, with this eerie short story of a woman driven mad by the imprisonment of her own life.
Her husband John, the good physician has dominion over his wife, doesn’t give credence to what she says and patronizes her throughout the story calling her a “blessed little goose” and tells her “that nothing [is] worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies” (435). Besides restricting her movement and social interaction he also forbids her to do the one thing she loves, which is to write and the thing that brings her “such a relief” (438).
She is left with nothing to do and her postpartum depression, along with her therapeutic impedimenta capitulates to obsession of her cloister. I enjoyed how the story, written as secret journal entries describe the narrator’s surroundings: the house with “walls and gates that lock”, the room with “barred windows” and “there are rings and things in the wall” and a “gate at the head of the stairs”, all bringing images to mind of a dungeon, even the bedstead is nailed to the floor (434-435).
The journal entries evolve from descriptions of the narrator’s surrounding to her describing a jail of sorts. The yellow wall-paper’s pattern “becomes bars” and the narrator realizes “[she is] quite sure it is a woman” behind the wall-paper “and she is all the time trying to climb through”, to be freed as is the narrator (440). For me, it became obvious that the trapped woman is the sequestered narrator and her need to get the paper off is another metaphor for the narrator having to be freed of her constrictions. There is one point that I am still questioning and it lies within: “In spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back” (444). I am lead to believe that Jane is our narrator and her mind has spilt from self.
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