Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The yellow wallpaper”

I’ve been digging into Reddit’s horror literature subreddit and came across the “Top 10 short stories” page. One of the stories on there which I knew nothing about was The yellow wallpaper, so I decided to check it out.

The story is told in a narrative form by our main character who begins by telling us about the beauty of the house and its surroundings. At first, she seems to be just a regular woman enjoying herself, but as the story progresses we find out more and more about her and her husband. For starters, her husband is a doctor who has diagnosed her with a slight hysterical tendency after the birth of their child so he recommends that she has a “rest” cure.

However, the house is far from beautiful. The narrator can’t help but find something off about the house, especially their room and the yellow wallpaper which seems to mutate the longer she stays in the room. On top of that, her husband/doctor prescribes her with “doing nothing” so even her favorite hobby – writing is out of limits. Luckily, she manages to successfully hide her journal. This and several other factors make her start seeing things.

This was a very interesting read. Although not the scariest thing it was quite thought-provoking. One of the most prevalent themes of the story is the theme of feminism and gender roles as we see the husband as he tries to assert his dominance over her as she takes on a role that resembles more of a subordinate rather than a wife, hell she even resembles a slave more than just his partner, which lead to the other prevalent theme which I found the most interesting, alienation.

This is where I think the story fully flourished. It shows perfectly how treating someone like that and thinking so less of them so much so that you would leave them in a lonely house just to do nothing but “rest” is pretty frightening. And this story shows us perfectly what that does to a person’s mind. She was reduced to a shell of a person not allowed to even express herself in the most basic way possible. And it makes you think, how many women are still in oppressive “relationships” like these even to this day.

It even paints an interesting picture of the medical field as she herself put it “the real purpose of the story was to reach Dr. S. Weir Mitchell and convince him of the error of his ways” with the doctor and her time as a patient being one of the main inspirations for the story.

But you can still see this even these days, especially here in my country. Having spent many years at the University I can safely say that there are plenty of people in the field who have no idea what they are doing, and not just the medical staff, the general population seems lost too. Just a few days ago I was listening to a woman explain about her relative who had Parkinson’s disease and how she was beginning to feel that demons might have been possessing her.

Successfully sticking with you and making you question many things, especially tradition and traditional gender roles and their effect on people, the yellow wallpaper stands out in an oversaturated market and delivers a fantastic story, even as H.P. Lovecraft himself put it: ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ rises to a classic level in subtly delineating the madness which crawls over a woman dwelling in the hideously papered room where a madwoman was once confined.”

Final verdict: 9/10

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