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"The Yellow Wallpaper" and Women's Discourse Author(s): Karen Ford Source: Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 309-314 Published by: University of Tulsa Stable URL: Accessed: 25/07/2010 22:06 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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"The YellowWallpaper" Women'sDiscourse and
PaulaTreichler's the essay "Escaping Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in 'The YellowWallpaper'" offersone of the firstclose and thoroughreadings of a short storywhich has long been of interestto feministsbut which is also read and employed by psychologists, historians, sociologists, and literary critics. Although the storyhas had manyreaders,remarkably little has been written about it. Treichler's essay provides at once a close reading and a challenging thesis around which discussion can begin. Each time I have students insist that it describesthe progrestaught "TheYellowWallpaper," sion of one person'sneurosis,for instance that it is the tale of one woman's mental breakdowncausedspecificallyby postpartumdepression.Yet,many lack and details, like the narrator's of a name, argueagainsther individuality, the primer-like names of the husbandand sister-in-law-John and similarly, for Mary-suggest they are merelyrepresentatives Husbandsand In-laws.In fact, the most individual name in the story-Weir Mitchell-points away from the narratorand towardthe effects of his very specific treatment on people like her. Moreover, as Treichler has shown, "a feminist reading emphasizesthe social and economic conditions which drivethe narratorand potentially all women-to madness" (64). In addition to liberating"The YellowWallpaper" fromoverlyidiosyncraticreadings,Treichler's essayraises two importantissuesfor readersof Gilman'sstory and for feminist critics in particular:first, through her discussion of diagnosis, she works toward a definition of "patriarchal and, second, throughher close reading discourse"; of the story,she problematizes image of the wallpaper,thereby calling the into question the notion of women'sdiscourse. There can be no doubt that the narratordwells in the middle of PaShe is living in "ancestral triarchy. halls"(9), has just given birth to a boy, is surroundedby men-her husband, her brother, and somewhere in the background,Weir Mitchell-and even the female or females in the house appear to be cardboardfigurescut out by the patriarchy-first Mary,the virgin mother who "isso good with the baby"(14) and later Jennie (a word which means a female donkey or beast of burden)who "is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession"(17-18). Whatever language emerges from this setting can safely be considered 309...
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