The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Review of THE YELLOW WALLPAPER by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
A classic I should have read long ago, THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is a short story with incredible impact. Originally published in 1892, the narrator is a wife virtually imprisoned in an estate house, for the summer, by her physician husband (with the connivance of her physician brother). She is a victim of the prevailing 19th century thought on females that they were prone to "hysteria" due to their biology (no thank you, Dr. Freud) and although not expressed in those terms, hysteria is what her husband diagnoses. He respects her so little that he refuses her choice of rooms (she sensibly asks for a room with light and air and garden exposure) and installs her in the top-floor nursery, where the wallpaper peels in strips, the wooden floor is scratched, and there are no curtains to ease sunlight nor moonlight. Then he stays away as much as possible. The consequence is a gradual mental and psychological decline, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy by the physician/husband (he declares "nervous depression," she descends into insanity).
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is a stern and ringing condemnation of the upper-class Victorian Era society (on both sides of The Big Pond) that ruled women third-class, prone to bouts of hysteria, and allowed husbands to decide everything, including disrespecting an adult woman with the "fond" appellation "little girl."
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