Monday, July 2, 2012
The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Rating: 4 stars
So short, and so good - why did I hold off on reading this for as long as I did?
The Yellow Wallpaper is the secret journal of a woman trapped in domesticity. The narrator and her husband, John, have rented a home in the country for a few months. John, a doctor, believes all his wife's nervous condition needs is some fresh air, new surroundings, and idle pastimes. She spends most of her time alone in her bedroom - a room with oddly patterned yellow wallpaper - examining the paper and scribbling her fancies - as her husband calls them - in her journal, an exercise which he forbids her. As the days pass, the narrator begins to isolate herself even more, eventually freeing herself from her domestic jail by falling deeply into insanity.
The short story is one of those literary treats, chock full of imagery, symbols and dramatic irony. The wallpaper is symbolic of the narrator's prison - the woman she sees "creeping" behind it a reflection of herself. The room itself has the furniture nailed to the floor, "rings and things" in the wall, and the wallpaper torn - the narrator associates it with a nursery (also symbolic of her domestic prison) while the reader is left to realize that the room has been used to house others with a similar sickness. The narrator looks out the window to see other women creeping, many of them, as she comes to the realization that the restrictions put on a woman as wife and mother is the type of imprisonment felt all over the world. Mostly, it is a diatribe on S. Weir's (named within the text) 'resting cure' and how idleness can accelerate the deterioration of an already anxious mind.
It was a delightful - if also slightly terrifying - read.