My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the author:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman; also Charlotte Perkins Stetson (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935), was a prominent American humanist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform. She was a utopian feminist and served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle.
She has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Her best-remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, which she wrote after a severe bout of postpartum psychosis.
Publication year: 1892
‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is about a woman who is apparently suffering from postpartum depression. She is brought to a colonial mansion to recover by her husband. He is a physician and diagnoses her condition as a slight hysterical condition, telling her that it’s all in her head and prescribes rest and no stimulation from the outside world.
The woman’s wish to get out and do something is brushed off by her husband and it gets to the point where she’s even forbidden to meet people or think that there’s something wrong with her. So, she suffers in isolation.
“I am glad my case is not serious! But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.”
The woman spends her days walking about the house or confined in the room on the upper floor with barred windows where she’s not even allowed to write. Her incarceration takes a toll on her; she becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper peeling from the wall and begins to see patterns in it.
This is the powerful story of a woman’s slow descent into madness. Written in 1892, it addresses the issues of stigma around mental illness, sexism, and societal rules. This story is more of a cautionary tale against the practice of neglecting mental health and limiting a woman’s freedom.
The story is inspired by the events happened in the author’s life. Back in 1887, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was suffering from depression and sought the help of a specialist who prescribed her ‘rest cure’. After grueling three months, she found herself on the edge of utter mental breakdown. This story was written to illustrate the ill-effects of such treatment.
It also sheds a light on the male-dominated society in the 19th century. The woman is supposed to do what she is told. Her opinions or suggestions are not taken into account. Hence, she has no control over her life. She tries to oppose but she’s not firm or rebellious as she doesn’t want to be seen as an ungrateful or a disagreeable person.
That being said, it’s definitely a classic worth reading.