23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
This book consists of a gem of a story and a mediocre afterward. The afterward includes a useful biography of the author and a short analysis of the story; my bias is always to allow the story to stand on its own and print literary criticism in books of literary criticism - Elaine Hedges bears the brunt of my bias by simply pointing out the obvious with regards to the wall-paper as symbol.
The story itself is very interesting - it is difficult to remember you are reading fiction rather than an excerpt from a diary - the author is superb at writing in a style that seems to be uncensored thoughts. Within this framework, Gilman manages to have the narrator's changing perceptions of the wall-paper pattern reflect the narrator's descent into insanity. There is a didactic content built into the actions and words of the characters other than the narrator - the very rational husband-doctor, the sister-in-law who efficiently keeps the house going as its "mistress" deteriorates.
A slim volume, this story gives excellent insight into the culture and individuals who spurred the "first" women's movement.
68 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 1999
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an American short story author, writes "The Yellow Wallpaper." In this literary work Gilman illustrates the unfortunate injustices women are forced to accept. Gilman portrays a woman who needs to escape societies pressures, yet seeking her true identity she finds only insanity. This is a sad story that outlines the repression of the women in the late 1800's due to male supremacy. Furthermore, Gilman expresses these three over arching themes: gender, struggle for identity, and survival. These three issues question the position and role of women in a male dominated society. For many years Gilman suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to Melancholia. In stir of hope she sought the best specialist in nervous disease, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. He applied a "rest cure" treatment at once; this treatment involves total bed rest, isolation and confinement. Unfortunately his directions of bed rest, two hours of intellectual life a day and not touching a pen again, led Gilman to the border line of total mental breakdown. Using her remnants of intelligence she discontinued this treatment. She was so inspired by her escape and regained enough power to write "The Yellow Wallpaper." This piece was not only controversial, but helped stop other women from being driven to insanity themselves. The narrator in the story is also diagnosed as having a temporary nervous depression, which is later know as postpartum depression--a depression caused by a hormonal imbalance after giving birth. The narrator's husband, John, prescribes the same "rest cure" treatment Gilman was subjected to. Obviously the narrator loves her husband and trusts him but she too has some underlying feeling that maybe his prescription of total bed rest is not working for her. Gender segregation is completely outlined within this short story. The men, seen through the eyes of the narrator, are capable and stable. For example the narrator writes, "John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures." Here she is clearly portraying the male chauvinism and unreasoning within this male character. Her husband's role also plays a big part in her spiritual suicide. Although she may disagree with John and her brother she still states, "But what is one to do" (726). This clearly portrays that women, although they held an opinion, must learn to keep it to themselves. Even though, John had his wife placed in a big airy room the room did not help her much. Instead the yellow wallpapered room subjected her to total loneliness and tormented her with this distinct odor and a hideous view. While the men are perceived one way the women are perceived as the weak sex, that depend on men for strength. For example Mary, her sister-in-law, is the expected ideal woman of the 1800's. For instance, she writes, "She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession" (729). So one can see how women are displayed in the Victorian period. The narrator is also treated like a child or as having the same mentality of a child. For example John say's, "What is it, little girl...Don't go walking about like that you'll get cold" (732). It is clear throughout the short story that women are looked upon as illiterate children, not adults. The men clearly think women are to irrational to make dissuasions of their own, which means they are not even close to being at the same level as men. A common misrepresentation at that time. The second theme portrayed is search for identity. This is when the narrator starts to question her position in a male dominated world. Although she has yet to figure it out she knows there is a hidden motive in the wallpaper that may be a link to her true identity. For example; the narrator, with absolutely nothing else to do, is reduced to staring endlessly at a pattern in a wallpaper, thus creating some image that she feels is necessary to find out. The narrator says, "I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman" (733). Once the narrator determines that the image is in fact a woman struggling to become free, she some how aligns herself with the woman. She continues to persue this project of getting the woman out. This woman becomes her sanity and that's the only one thing in her life she can control. The narrator soon develops this burst of curiosity, because the wallpaper becomes even more and more mysterious. She tells how the women tries to get through, but the pattern seems to strangle her and hold her back (735). The narrator finds herself reflected in this picture. It is as though she's letting herself know that she is not the only one trapped in a dominating world. She begins to tear off the layers of the wallpaper in order to help the women escape, just as she too would love to escape. Throughout the short story the narrator slowly starts to fit parts of her controlled life together and form a voice of her own. The third theme, survival, shows the narrator reaching out and setting an end to this miserable repeating female reformatory. She now realizes her place in this society and decides she to wants to escape. But although she's ready to move on, she is still to terrified to let go of reality altogether. For example she writes, "But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way" (737). And although she is scared she still finds enough strength to begin her new freedom. She exemplifies this by saying, "And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it of course, and came in" (737). Although she had to repeat herself, John had no choice but to listen to her. And even when he fainted she continued to go over him in her circle, but never did she once stop for him. She even went on to say, "I've got out at last...in spite of you and Jane...And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back in" (737). Ironically it took insanity for a woman to finally gain courage and learn how to survive off of it. John laying on the floor symbolizes male dominance; and the narrator going over her husband symbolizes female's overcoming this male prevalence. Without a doubt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman makes it hard for the reader not to not understand the "young wife" passing from a slight mental unbalancement to a deranged lunacy in "The Yellow Wallpaper." She supports her aggression thoroughly by the conclusion of the narrators search for the truth and the discovery that the injustice is reality. To begin, gender is portrayed through the eyes of the narrator. She sets a role most women can relate with, a need to escape from a male dominated world. Secondly, through a search for identity, the narrator is able to depict the clues that significantly relate to the narrators role's in society and justify them to her standards. Lastly, survival helps the narrator depict the difference between realism and fallacy and learn how to survive off of this new knowledge. Gilman literally acknowledged a bias many women were to intimidated to approach. This short story clearly confronted the sexual politics of the male-female, husband-wife relationship. Although it raised controversy it did help change the woman-man relationship there after.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2003
This short story, based upon the author's own experiences, is a powerful tale of one intelligent woman's struggle with madness, the role of (married) women in society and family in the late 1800s, and how she copes with well-meaning but misguided relatives and their ideas of a woman's nature and abilities. Many consider it an early feminist novel, and I agree, although I would extend the author's message to any group that finds itself severely restricted by society's notions of appropriate behavior, goals, and the nature of the group.
The narrator of the story is, from a modern point of view, a normal, young, married woman who also has a desire to write. However, bound by Victorian mores and restrictions, this desire to write is deemed inappropriate at best and casts questions about her not fulfilling her (only) role as wife (and mother). She was only to focus her attention on "domestic" concerns (house, husband, children) and anything remotely intellectual was considered a threat to her sanity and her physical health. When she refuses to bow to society's (and her husband's) ideas of womanhood, she is confined to a room for COMPLETE rest (meaning NO mental stimulation of any kind, no reading, no writing). What makes matters worse is that her husband (a doctor) is also her jailer, and instead of truly understanding his wife as a human being, opts to follow society's standards instead of doing what is in the best interest of his wife (and her health, both physical and mental). Not surprisingly, she rebels a bit, and continues to write her thoughts in a journal, hiding the journal and pencil from her husband. When her deception is discovered, she is even more strictly confined than before, and denied contact with her children.
It is at this point that she begins her descent into madness--not from the desire to write and express her creativity, but from being denied an outlet for that creativity. She was not mad before she was prescribed complete rest, but rather the complete rest which caused her madness. She begins to imagine things (shapes, objects, animals, people) in the yellow wallpaper which covers the walls of the room to which she is confined. As more restrictions and controls are placed upon her, her imagination grows, until finally she strips the wallpaper to reach the figures, and is found by her husband, surely and completely mad.
I liked this story very much because the author conveyed the kind of dead lives many talented, creative women must have been forced to lead due to society's ideas of women and their abilities while fully backed by the medical profession. She clearly illustrates that in this instance, doctors and husbands do not know best, and that their very best intentions had the precise effect of bringing about the madness that they sought to cure. As I read the story, I wondered why her husband (and the doctor) were so blind as to the causes of her "nervous condition". It obviously was not working, and rather than demonstrating their intelligence by trying something else or, God forbid, asking her what she needed (a couple hours per day to devote to writing, a small thing indeed), continued along the same methods of treatment, only with more restrictions! The social commentary and the commentary on the status of women in society and in their own families is handled in an effective way by the author, not only in her prose but in the development of the characters and the storyline. It is a most persuasive plea of the basic idea of feminism--that women are people too, with talents and abilities outside of their roles as wives and mothers that deserve an opportunity to be developed. In reading this story, I am amazed by how far we as a society have come in changing our views of women, and yet by how much further we have to go. I highly recommend this book.
This book was also made into a show that aired on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre in the late 1980s. I have not been able to find a copy of the program, but remember that it was well-produced and faithful to the story.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
Written in January, 1892, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is a delight and a treat to read. Truly, Gilman was a woman to beat all.
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is one of seven short stories in this small little 70 page book. However, there's nothing small about Gilman's writing. Such candor! Such wit! Such wisdom for a lady in the late 1800's, writing as a profession -- I mean, this was something that was just not done!
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is about a woman who is 'nervous' and depressed. Her husband, a doctor, takes her to an old home to vacation and get well. She is suffering from depression after giving birth, but back in those days, this was an unknown and undiagnosed disease. Her hubby decides she needs rest and relaxation and insists she stay in an upper floor room, the one with the yellow wallpaper. Sadly, the days and weeks of being isolated lead this poor woman down a path that has no return. Her journey into madness is so wonderfully detailed you can feel her mind slip-slidin' away. What an awesome and shocking read. Yet, Gilman handles this poor woman's sorry fate with such wit, humor, and insight. To quote -- "John is a physician, and perhaps -- (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind --) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well fast. You see, he does not believe I am sick!" To sum up, the poor woman 'sees' things in the wallpaper and keeps a journal of her days/nights. What an enticing read. Very haunting.
Another favorite was TURNED. A married couple have a lovely young girl as a maid. After the husband seduces her and gets her with child, he goes away on a business trip. The young maid and the missus are left alone to work things out. The way things work out for the two women -- left alone to clean up the mess -- is quite the surprise, shocking, and very, very well written. A twist of fate opens the eyes of the young wife and she is no fool, revenge could be the answer.
Gilman writes beyond her time -- all of her writing was written and published in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Women were treated like children, received no respect, and were not considered equals to men. These stories are full of fun, wit, humor, surprises, and read easily and well. All of them revolve around the relationships between men and women and are fun and fantastic, yet disturbing both in content and truth.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in 1860 and died in 1935 at the age of 75. She committed suicide after learning she had incurable cancer. She was an advocate of euthanasia and killed herself with an overdose of chloroform.
Gilman was a sociologist, novelist, author of short stories, poems, fiction and non-fiction. She was also a lecturer on social reform. Her aunt was Harriet Beecher Stowe.
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER short story was written in two days but has been enjoyed by readers around the world for over 100 years. Gilman's writing technique has made this reader a fan and I will certainly read more of her work. She is a great user of the exclamation point !!! -- in fact, in YELLOW WALLPAPER that simple !!! after thoughts and sentences makes the reader aware of how quickly and surely our friend who sees things in that horrid wall covering is going insane.
I highly recommend this small book of short stories -- they will stay with you for years to come.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2014
The story I am reviewing is The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This story was written in the 1890's. During this time women were not very highly regarded due to a lot of sexism and that men were superior. Women during this time were expected to be the perfect housewife that would consist of staying home there whole life, taking care of the children, the house, and food on a daily basis. The lifestyle leads to a lot of depression in women which was "cured" by leaving them in solitary confinement for a certain length of time. In my opinion the story displays a lot of the authors thoughts on what women of the time suffered on a day to day basis during this point of time
In the story there are not a lot of characters which the author makes up with the vast amount of dialog throughout the entire story. the main character in the story is the woman whose name is not mentioned. she is very different in her opinion from other women during the time because she has a voice and does not act like the typical house wife despite her best attempts at it. The main setting of the story is a very well portrayed urban house. while reading through the start you almost feel as though you are there. the whole story in my opinion falls into a much larger picture that is we don't fully understand what someone else is going through.
To me i feel that this story would be best enjoyed by someone with a higher level of reading and comprehension of the text; high school students would be the suggested readers to me. I come to that conclusion from the way the story is worded and from the amount of dialogue used it would be harder for people without a higher level of reading to follow. although i was not the biggest fan of the story I would suggest reading The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman from a historical standpoint of how women lived during that time.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2002
The first time I read the Yellow Wallpaper I was struck by the sheer force the words have on the reader. Perkins Gillman plays a mind game with her words, and the reader is made to join her sense of imagination. I first read it for a literature class, and each of the students in the class had a different interpretation of the story. This seemed extremely effective - it had made all of us think, and imagine. It had made is not just analyze the words, but it made us become a part of the story.I myself felt that the woman in the story was quite amazing - there were two men in her life, her husband and her brother both doctors by profession who were most incensitive to her needs. As can be expected of that time period, they were more interested in the norms of society, and were not going to allow the woman to act contrary to the norm. She however, was not about to give up on behalf of the norm. She was going to fight to the very end, and it felt almost as though she had liberated her own mind when she stopped seeing another woman in the wallpaper, but herself became one with it. Those of you who read this should also go ahead and read something on the author. It is a truely amazing story, and leaves plenty of room for the imagination. or. In one of her essays she talks of why she wrote this story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2004
Elaine Hedges provides an excellent and useful introduction to the life and work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman in this affordable, and scrupulously edited, edition of what is now her most famous work. She positions this story in the trajectory of Gilman's wrought personal and effusive literary lives and reveals its importance to late-twentieth-century feminism.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2001
This book truly captures the constraints felt by so many women, both in Perkins' time and in our own. She is able to touch on a very sensitive subject with amazing poetic prose. The fact that this book was written in the nineteenth century makes it all the more remarkable!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story about a woman's battle with postpartum depression and how this problem is managed during her time (the 1890's).
The narrator's/ protagonist's husband is a doctor, so she acknowledges that he must know what's best for her. He doesn't want her to face any stress of any kind. Oddly, he even discourages her from doing things she enjoys doing, such as writing. Not being allowed to do things that she enjoys only makes matters worse; she sees visions in the designs of the yellow wallpaper in the room in which her husband confines her.
Obviously, this makes the style and voice of this work more difficult to follow. Readers must remember that the narrator/protagonist is suffering from psychological problems and will not always write coherently. If readers consider that this writing might compare to a journal, it is not so difficult to think through the times when the writing seems disconnected.
An understanding about what was known about mental health during the late 19th century, particularly as concerns women's mental health, is very helpful here. Also, it is helpful to realize that Gillman, the author, went through a battle with postpartum depression herself. This short story simply puts a face on the way such was handled in that time and, as such, has much historical merit.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is about the 4th time I've read this one and I love it!!! Cleverly written, fun, and a short ride to insanity! What better way to spend about an hour! Love it!