The Yellow Wallpaper
The cover of the 1901 Edition
|Written by:||Charlotte Perkins Gilman|
|Central Theme:||The mental health of women vs quackery|
|Synopsis:||A woman is ordered to get a bed rest because of "hysteria" and gets cloistered in a room with a very peculiar wallpaper. Insanity by isolation ensues.|
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a semi-autobiographical short story written in 1891 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It takes the perspective of a young woman who has been ordered to continuous bedrest as a treatment for hysteria. Trapped in a small room in her husband's country house, with nothing to do all day but sleep and write in her journal, she starts to dwell upon the dingy yellow wallpaper that decorates the place. In her boredom, she begins to see women crouching, cowering, trapped in the walls...
A landmark feminist work, its depiction of postpartum psychosis was also an inspiration for early cosmic horror, in particular The King in Yellow. Note that H.P. Lovecraft named the Gilman family after her in The Shadow Over Innsmouth (and as a pun on "gill"). In 2011, a film version of the story was released.
- Adaptation Expansion: The film adaptation gives the narrator a name, expands a bit on her (meager, tiny) social life, and expands on the character of her husband, John--who is here both her husband and her doctor.
- Alien Geometries
- Aluminum Christmas Trees:
- Yes, isolation (aka the "rest cure") was a treatment used in the late 19th century. Yes, it was quackery.
- Also the so-called 'nerve tonic' she was required to ingest regularly. The active ingredient of such medications was usually alcohol, cocaine or both.
- Apocalyptic Log
- Author Avatar
- Babies Make Everything Better: Subverted. It's implied that the narrator's hysteria is at least partly due to post-partum depression. Her baby hardly enters into the story.
- However, it is also implied that if the narrator could have just taken care of her child (and see a reason to live in said child) she could have gotten better faster. Being denied even being a mother was another part of going insane.
- Creator Breakdown: The story becomes even more disturbing when you find out that it was based on Gilman's own experiences with depression and Victorian-era doctors.
- Go Mad From the Isolation
- Hypocrite: In the film, John. He gives a lecture on the importance of mental stimulation, exercise, and fresh air--while his isolated, cloistered wife is having her psychotic break in the attic.
- Hysterical Woman: The narrator.
- Lovecraft Country: Definitely the seclusion part, if nothing else.
- Madwoman in the Attic
- Mind Screw
- No Name Given: The narrator. The film adaptation gave her the name "Charlotte." Some conclude from a line near the end that the narrator is named Jane, as there was no mention of a character named Jane previously in the story.
- The Ophelia: The narrator, by the end.
- Primal Stance: The women in the walls as well as the narrator.
- Purple Prose
- Sanity Slippage
- Stay in the Kitchen: The rationale behind the narrator's husband forbidding her from writing. Gilman herself was told by a prominent neurologist to "Live as domestic a life as possible. Have your child with you all the time... And never touch pen, brush or pencil as long as you live," as a cure for her depression.
- Straw Vulcan: John, somewhat.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl
- Through the Eyes of Madness
- Unreliable Narrator
- Wallpaper Camouflage
- Wrong Genre Savvy: The narrator.