The Yellow Wallpaper

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October 17, 2008

The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)
By Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the author uses first person and the main character is the author. She talks about being sick and her husband and brother, who are both doctors, suggest the best thing for her is to have complete rest and solitude. They rent a house in the country, far away from the town and neighbors. The house is described as having gardens and gates, and hedge walls like an English garden. It sounds like the perfect place for rest and relaxation. The house had some sort of legal problems and is called “haunted” because it has been vacant for several years.

When you start reading the story, you feel as if you can trust the character, but as the story progresses, the mental stability of the author deteriorates. You begin to wonder if anything she said at the beginning of the story is true. She is put upstairs in a room with bars on the window and the bed is nailed to the floor. She thinks the room was used as a gymnasium for children because it has rings and things in the walls. She starts talking about the yellow wallpaper that is in the room and how the paper has been stripped off as high as she can reach.

As her mental state worsens and she begins to think there is woman who lives in the wallpaper and how if she stays awake at night, she will be able to catch her. She begins to feel suicidal because the author writes she is getting angry and frustrated and wants to jump out the window. In the end she feels like she lives in the wallpaper and doesn’t want to leave. The time for them to go back home is upon them and she throws the key out of the window so no one can get into the room.

Back in the 1890’s the cure for a “nervous breakdown” or “depression” was to have complete rest, with no responsibility. Gilman writes this story because of this treatment. She believes if she had been able to work or continue to write, she would have...
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