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The Yellow Wall-Paper
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Short Story/Novella Collection > The Yellow Wall-Paper - August 2016

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 5010 comments Mod
Our short story for August 2016 is The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Christine | 1217 comments I am so excited that this short story won the poll! I will definitely make time to read it later this week and post my thoughts.


message 3: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments I'm in for this one too


Kathleen | 4088 comments This is one of my favorites. I'm definitely in for a re-read.


message 5: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9694 comments Mod
Kathleen wrote: "This is one of my favorites. I'm definitely in for a re-read."

Agreed!!! On of my favorites also.


Gill | 36 comments I'l be reading this, but later in the month.


Melanti | 2384 comments This is one of my favorites too.

Something that came up in a different group's discussion of it is that it's semi-autobiographical. Gilman was prescribed a rest cure, and had a breakdown as a result.

"Rest cure" to me sounds like taking it easy - perhaps a couple of weeks at a peaceful resort/sanatorium away from family/social pressures. It sounds like a relaxing vacation!

But historically, it was more not being allowed to do anything whatsoever - being confined to bed or the bed chamber, often not being allowed to read, write, draw - nothing intellectual or creative. No physical activity that could be avoided. Sometimes, they weren't even allowed to sit up, turn over or feed themselves!

In that regard, it's pretty horrific treatment for depression. In some regards, they're saying "Okay, just lay there until you get over it."


message 8: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9694 comments Mod
Yes, the treatment was pretty scary in the book to me also.


Emerson | 348 comments You're making me very eager to start it!


Emerson | 348 comments I'm mid-read now, and I don't like it, it took off without me...
One thing though, I'm terrified of how much power the husband has on her... It reminded me of other reads about women's hysterics and how much they needed to be cared with...


message 11: by Diptarup (new)

Diptarup Ghosh Dastidar | 2 comments It was a really shocking story! I feel like the last gesture of crawling over the body of her husband has more to it than the eyes see...


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2058 comments It is a rather sad and freaky story..
Her need for understanding and a need for someone to talk to is strong...
The gradual descent into madness was very terrible
The last scene is very sad and terrible...
And her husband was a very busy doctor..who did not understand his wifes complaints..the lack of knowledge of mental illness and the taboo on it..all made it difficult..
She had a sis in law living with her.even to her the narraror couldnt talk to..what a sad period


Loretta | 2670 comments siriusedward wrote: "It is a rather sad and freaky story..
Her need for understanding and a need for someone to talk to is strong...
The gradual descent into madness was very terrible
The last scene is very sad and ter..."


Wow siriusedward! What a heartfelt comment! You brought tears to my eyes! You said it so eloquently! Having read the book myself, I too felt so horrible for her! It seemed no one cared! It's a crime really because metal illness, is a real issue!!! Thank you siriusedward! :)


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2058 comments :) you are welcome...


Loretta | 2670 comments siriusedward wrote: ":) you are welcome..."

;)
Back attcha!!!


message 16: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Just finished this book and loved it. It was great at giving a glimpse of what it was like in the late 1800's when woman were treated for depression. It's so sad to think of how many women were treated this way.

I read Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln a few years ago. It's a it's a modern fictionalized account of President Lincolns wife and her "treatment" for depression. It's fictionalized in the sense of giving her thoughts going through it but the basic events are true. President Lincoln suffered from depression, and of course was allowed to be President through it and not locked up in a hospital. Which creates an interesting juxtaposition. After he died, and she was grief stricken, she was put in a sanatorium (that was located near where I live!). There's a lot more too it of course. It's a very good book and much more heart wrenching than this as you would expect due to the difference in length and having the character be a real person.

This book was published about 16 years after Mrs. Lincoln's hospitalization. I wonder if it was at all inspired by it?

What's most extraordinary about The Yellow Wall Paper is that it was written when it was happening and got to the crux of the horrific problem so quickly in an achingly beautiful artistic way. Hopefully it changed some minds at the time.


Kathleen | 4088 comments I like this story more each time I read it! Sad and freaky is right, siriusedward! And also, what you said about the gradual descent--that is what really makes it work. And, what Diptarup said--yes!

The first time I read this it just scared the daylights out of me in a personal way. I love how this story shows how easy it would be to go down that road. The next time, I was most horrified by the fact that this poor woman wasn't given the help she needed. This time what hit me was the women--all those women coming out represented the many, many (even Mrs. Lincoln) women who suffered.

You've got to think that yes, we've made progress in treating mental illness, but what stories are being written now and years from now about what we will later realize is barbaric treatment that people receive today?


message 18: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) Melanti wrote: "This is one of my favorites too.

Something that came up in a different group's discussion of it is that it's semi-autobiographical. Gilman was prescribed a rest cure, and had a breakdown as a resu..."


I read that story in a class on literature depicting women's status. That cure was common at the time the story was written. As a retired therapist, I can tell you that's not the common thinking today. We know that doing nothing and having too much time to dwell on one's depression is one of the worst things that can happen to someone.


message 19: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Kathleen wrote: "I like this story more each time I read it! Sad and freaky is right, siriusedward! And also, what you said about the gradual descent--that is what really makes it work. And, what Diptarup said--yes..."

It does make you wonder about today. I've had a couple friends who've developed manic depression and It's so hard to get their medicine right. One is doing great now but it took many years. The other friend has resorted to shock treatment. I didn't even know that was still done. I worry about him . It's done in a much more precise and humane way but it still scares me.


message 20: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Lisa wrote: "Melanti wrote: "This is one of my favorites too.

Something that came up in a different group's discussion of it is that it's semi-autobiographical. Gilman was prescribed a rest cure, and had a bre..."


Was it common for men to be committed though? That's why I brought up the Lincolns because I don't think he was hospitalized for it. I don't know for sure. Maybe it was hush hush or I just don't remember from what I've read. It seems in my personal experience, more women suffer from it (especially considering postpartum depression), so that could be part of why you hear of women having been committed more. Even if equally distributed, women probably couldn't commit husbands against their will. I'm sure it was probably under diagnosed in men. President Lincoln's was well documented though.


Kathleen | 4088 comments I think you're right there was definitely a difference in treatment of men and women. I think of "female hysteria" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_...) and "mother's little helpers" as two examples.


message 22: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) Even today women are more often diagnosed with psychiatric disorders than men. They're more likely to seek help. Men's depression is often masked as anger. That was probably the same back during the era of this story but I can't say for sure.


message 23: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Sherry wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "I think you're right there was definitely a difference in treatment of men and women. I think of "female hysteria" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_...) and "mother's lit..."

Ha! Funny Sherry.


message 24: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Kathleen wrote: "I think you're right there was definitely a difference in treatment of men and women. I think of "female hysteria" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_...) and "mother's little helpers" as t..."

That's a wild list of symptoms isn't it? Seems like a man could have easily got his wife committed if he was annoyed by her PMS or anything.


Warner West | 45 comments I listened to the Librivox audiobook of this earlier today and loved it enough to reread it tonight as a paper copy. All I can say is WOW. This book blew me away. It was like "The Awakening" and the movie "The Others" had a child and it was this book. The first time I read it, I caught the imagery and symbolism. The second time that I read it (just a few minutes ago) I saw what was obvious and right in front of me.
SPOILERS.


The house likely only had dispute among the heirs because someone had previously committed suicide in that room. What nursery has a bed that's nailed to the floor? If she herself had trouble tearing off of the paper then how would a child? I also realized that she had been keeping from telling us things in her diary. That explains the gnawed up bedposts, the yellow "smooches", and the scratches and holes in the floor.
I was honestly astonished by how well-written this is.
5/5 stars.


Nathalie | 325 comments I read this over the past weekend but I felt like I didn't get everything out of it like most of you did. So maybe I should read it a second time (it's a short read anyway).

Also since this is supposed to be a journal I wondered why it wasn't divided into days. I often got lost in the time scheme of the story.


message 27: by Jen (new)

Jen  (jennsps) | 135 comments You know, I can't help connecting the MC in this story to Rochester's wife locked in the attic in Jane Eyre. I'm much more sympathetic to her and less sympathetic of Rochester now. If I was locked away and not allowed any stimulation at all, mental, emotional, physical, I don't know if I would go crazy ala Yellow Wallpaper or wife in Jane Eyre, attempting to kill the man who had me locked up!


message 28: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Sherry wrote: "It's pretty sickening. I hope most households were happier than that. I know that women being second class was the way they thought but I hope it wasn't that extreme in day to day life."

I agree Sherry. Sickening. I do think most homes were happier. Also agree about the build up. so well done!


message 29: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Warner wrote: "I listened to the Librivox audiobook of this earlier today and loved it enough to reread it tonight as a paper copy. All I can say is WOW. This book blew me away. It was like "The Awakening" and th..."

You brought up some great points that escaped me Warner. Your comments make me like the story even more.


Melanti | 2384 comments It's amazing what doctors used to think was a perfectly reasonable treatment for something like depression!

Sue wrote: "Was it common for men to be committed though? ..."

Um, not really. Or, at least, not as often, as long as the man was otherwise healthy and mobile. I think some disabled Civil War vets were treated to the rest cure.

Women were committed and given a "rest cure" because it was seen as feminine to not do work. Men were more often treated to the "West Cure" - aka, being sent out to the frontier to get manly exercise.

The APA site says:
"The dramatic difference between the Rest and West Cures suggests their prescriptive nature. Both cures existed to reinforce “proper” sexual behavior, serving to masculinize effeminate (and possibly homosexual) men and discourage women from entering the professions. Both were supported by the authority of science in an era that emphasized the biological differences between men and women."
http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/01/go...


Warner wrote: "What nursery has a bed that's nailed to the floor? If she herself had trouble tearing off of the paper then how would a child?.."

That's a detail that disturbs me every time I read it.


message 31: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam (aramsamsam) | 318 comments I just finished this. What a powerfully constructed tale. Absolutely horrifying. I love how all over the story there are little hints at what really happens and how helpless she is as a woman. Definitely worth rereading! I'm so glad I read this.


message 32: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Nathalie wrote: "I read this over the past weekend but I felt like I didn't get everything out of it like most of you did. So maybe I should read it a second time (it's a short read anyway).

Also since this is su..."


There is also a short film of it on Amazon Prime. I plan to watch that soon. Maybe it would hit home more with that? I also think it depends a lot on your state of mind when you read it and this being so short, you don't have time to get into it if you don't from the start.


Susan O (sozmore) Melanti wrote: "It's amazing what doctors used to think was a perfectly reasonable treatment for something like depression!

Sue wrote: "Was it common for men to be committed though? ..."

Um, not really. Or, at ..."


Theodore Roosevelt basically took the "west cure" after the death of his first wife. As far as I know it wasn't "prescribed", but if fit with his character and pattern of physical exercise to overcome weakness.


message 34: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Melanti wrote: "It's amazing what doctors used to think was a perfectly reasonable treatment for something like depression!

Sue wrote: "Was it common for men to be committed though? ..."

Um, not really. Or, at ..."


That's as I expected, I don't remember reading of men being committed unless the mental illness was more serious. That's so interesting about the "West Cure". Exercise is one of the best cures for depression. No doubt men got better more often than women!


message 35: by Melanti (last edited Aug 11, 2016 01:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melanti | 2384 comments Sherry wrote: "SPOILERY-ISH

I read about the author that this was auto biographical. She suffered from postpardum depression. I had no idea that postpardum depression could get that bad! Although I've heard of p..."


Yes. It was semi-auto-biographical.

For someone who was as creative as Gilman, being told to never write again, and to do nothing at all other than to stay at home, take care of her husband and raise her babies? That must have been awful.

The fact that she divorced shortly after her treatment makes me wonder how much of her own husband she put into the fictional husband in the story.


message 36: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Sherry wrote: "There's also a PBS 2 part version on YouTube. I don't know how it is because I haven't seen it.


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BAJm6gF..."


There's 3 different versions on Amazon Prime.

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...

Interesting that's it's had so much attention. I love it.


Nathalie | 325 comments Sue wrote: "Nathalie wrote: "I read this over the past weekend but I felt like I didn't get everything out of it like most of you did. So maybe I should read it a second time (it's a short read anyway).

Also..."


Thank you for mentioning the short film, Sue. I should watch it. But it's good to see the discussion taking off because I've already gained a lot of new insights from all these comments. I think you're right about needing the right state of mind to read this. I shall try it once again.


message 38: by Bob, Short Story Classics (last edited Apr 04, 2017 08:29AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 5010 comments Mod
I know I should keep my mouth shut and stay out of this discussion. If for no other reason than I’m a guy. But before you skin me and hang my hide on the barn wall, I ask that you remember that it’s been awhile since I read the books, Jane Eyre and Wall-Paper, and some details may be missing. Besides I’m a typically thoughtless male who just can’t keep quiet.

My first memory on Wall-Paper was that the woman in question had just delivered a baby. As I remember my thoughts went straight to post-partum depression. I don’t remember thinking of her husband as being cruel. It appeared to me that he was doing what was considered best. It seemed to be the standard practice for that time. Isolating someone was unfortunately thought of as a kindness. Keeping the patient away from any kind of stress or aggravation was regarded as helpful. I don’t think anyone from that time realized how mentally harmful isolation could be. It’s interesting to know that this story is somewhat autobiographical. What better way to start changing incorrect treatments for mental and physical health disorders than a survivor of the cure being able to intelligently relate the harmful effects

I’ll spoiler alert this nest section since it involves Jane Eyre which is not the topic of discussion. (view spoiler)


message 39: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3328 comments Bob wrote: "I know I should keep my mouth shut and stay out of this discussion. If for no other reason than I’m a guy. But before you skin me and hang my hide on the barn wall, I ask that you remember that it’..."

I agree with you Bob that he very well could have thought he was doing good for her because that was the accepted treatment of the time. I think like most great writing, this leaves some things to the imagination like Sherry thinking maybe he was out having an affair instead of working so much.

Some of us are probably bringing into this other things we've read where men used it as a weapon and didn't have the best of intentions, like in the book about Mrs. Lincoln that I mentioned and I know I've read others.

I appreciate you bringing us back to this other way of seeing it because it's certainly within the bounds of how she wrote it.

I also like how you hid the spoiler part for P&P since I'm reading it for the first time right now.


message 40: by Melanti (last edited Aug 05, 2016 01:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melanti | 2384 comments Bob wrote: "’ll spoiler alert this nest section since it involves Pride and Prejudice which is not the topic of discussion. ’..."

Jane Eyre, actually. I can see it's been quite a while for all three books!

(view spoiler)

We see mental illness so differently now (thank goodness).

I think part of what was going on with John was that he was a doctor. He heals people for a living. But there's his wife, stubbornly getting worse as he's enforcing the state-of-the-art medical treatment for her!

Think how embarrassing it would have been to him, professionally speaking, if he'd had to send her off to Mitchell's sanatorium to do the exact same treatment he was trying to do at home!

He probably had complete faith that his profession had all the answers with what ailed his wife - and therefore, if the treatment failed, perhaps they (meaning she) just wasn't trying hard enough or doing it properly.

Once again, I'm VERY glad to be living in the century I'm in.


message 41: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 5010 comments Mod
That’s what I mean by missing details. I wasn’t planning to reread this but I may have too. I think her husband was a Doctor and I think she is the narrator of her own story. If I’m correct wouldn’t that make her a little unreliable in relating the true details of her own story? Without any understanding about mental illness, wouldn’t her care givers push her a little, telling her to snap out of it? I can remember times when I was small, feeling sick or hurt, and my father telling me to get up shake it off you’ll feel better.


message 42: by Wreade1872 (new)

Wreade1872 | 885 comments It's funny the amount of different angles you can have on this story. I read it originally as it was covered by hppodcraft.com , as part of things mentioned in Lovecrafts's famous essay on weird fiction. I'm sure most will not agree with that characterization of it ;) .

'With this foundation, no one need wonder at the existence of a literature of cosmic fear. It has always existed, and always will exist; and no better evidence of its tenacious vigour can be cited than the impulse which now and then drives writers of totally opposite leanings to try their hands at it in isolated tales, as if to discharge from their minds certain phantasmal shapes which would otherwise haunt them.
Thus Dickens wrote several eerie narratives; ...a number of other examples; Mrs. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, social worker, “The Yellow Wall Paper”...' - H.P. Lovecraft


Melanti | 2384 comments Bob wrote: "That’s what I mean by missing details. I wasn’t planning to reread this but I may have too. I think her husband was a Doctor and I think she is the narrator of her own story. If I’m correct wouldn’..."

Yep!
Her husband is her doctor, so he has double authority over her, with no one to intercede on her behalf.


She's definitely a completely unreliable narrator by the end of the story. I guess part of the problem is to figure out which bits to believe from the beginning of the story.


Melanti | 2384 comments Wreade1872 wrote: "It's funny the amount of different angles you can have on this story. I read it originally as it was covered by hppodcraft.com , as part of things mentioned in Lovecrafts's famous essay on weird fi..."

weird fiction and horror do describe it well!
It's a story that works on multiple levels.

Sure, you have the mundane "mental breakdown" level.

But then you have the hallucinations and all the unexplained things - the creepy wallpaper, the bed that couldn't be moved, it's all extremely weird and creepy.


Kathleen | 4088 comments I love everyone's comments, and do hope you aren't really worried about us women getting hysterical or anything, Bob. :-)

I'm going to venture out a confession here. I was perfectly willing to forgive Rochester, but not this woman's husband. I wondered why, and at first thought it was the time frame, but they were actually much closer than I realized. So I decided that in fiction (big emphasis on fiction), I'm often happy to go with the attitude of the narrator, regardless of how I would feel in their position. Jane forgave Rochester so I did too. If this poor narrator got the chance to get better and forgive her husband, we never see that, so he remains a villain in my eyes.

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it!


message 46: by Wreade1872 (new)

Wreade1872 | 885 comments Sherry wrote: "Who nails down a bed? Hard to get at dust bunnies if it just won't move,lol"

The house i live in was built in the 60's and the door to the master bedroom has marks on it and the frame where a lock had obviously been... except its on the OUTSIDE of the door... true story.. and no i decided not to investigate why :/ .


message 47: by Melanti (last edited Aug 05, 2016 03:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melanti | 2384 comments Yikes!

A previous tenant rented it out at one point and they moved all their valuables into the bedroom and locked it to keep it safe.

Or it was a safety latch to keep a toddler out.

Pretend it's something benign like that.


message 48: by siriusedward (last edited Aug 05, 2016 06:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2058 comments I agree qith Bob too.
Times being what it was that was the way how ladies were treated and mental illness was regarded.i did not blame the husband.he was after all a product of his times.there might have been better men but it was the general attitude.
I think women were expected to just be.listen to what their husbands said and to obey.
Little girl or something similar was what the MC in A Doll's House was called too, i think.
It just was so.
And sweeping of problems under the mat ( this is true for now too) and expecting her to snap out of it was natural for then too.
And i think he was a workaholic doctor.

And Rochester...(view spoiler)


Melanti | 2384 comments Speaking for myself, I genuinely like it and find it wonderfully creepy.

The historical and biographical background that we've been discussing adds some extra depth, but even without considering that, I still like it on its own merits.

Everyone has different tastes. There' several well-regarded authors I can't stand.


message 50: by Wreade1872 (new)

Wreade1872 | 885 comments AnneGordon wrote: "Is this story considered good because it's an example of early feminist writing? I mean is there a chance that its reputation is based on that rather than the quality of the work itself? I've read ..."
I don' think thats true, i read it as weird/horror fiction and still enjoyed it.


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