Category Archives: The Yellow Wallpaper

My wallpaper is yellow too!!!!!!!

Wow this story had me a little enraged about how people treated people with mental illness but this is not what I’m talking about. The Yellow Wallpaper is my favorite reading so far because it shows so much detail into the world that they live in,  they treat the main character Charlotte Perkins like a child you just needs to be preoccupied with activities normal of a woman in society. This is very sexist and this pisses me off throughout the paper. I couldn’t imagine being in a situation like this without going off, but then again it would never happen so i have to say the state she is in is tragic. She never got to truly express how she felt and went insane in the process, she imagined a symbolic representation of woman having to hide the their inner feelings and desires.But to her husband she is just some dimwitted woman who couldn’t function without his guiding hand. He is very insensitive to her feelings and very condescending  towards her.

Reading Response #2: The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a story told from first person point of view. Throughout the text, the words “I,” “we,” “me,” “my,” and “myself” are used. The entire story is formatted as a series of diary entries of the protagonist. The protagonist is a woman whose married to a physician named John. For a while, they lived at “a colonial mansion, a hereditary estate.” The woman writes in her diary descriptions of the summer house. She finds most of the place to be beautiful and lovely. But there is one exception. She and John lived in a nursery room that has seen better days. The one thing that immediately got her attention was the wallpaper. She was fixated on its color, smell, and pattern. Personification and diction are used to describe how “queer” the wallpaper is according to her. “One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.” “When you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide — plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.” “But there is something else about that paper — the smell!” “It creeps all over the house. I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.” The woman is superstitious about the wallpaper. She views it as something that’s ominous, grotesque, and horrid. Its creepy influence overwhelms her. The woman’s reactions to the yellow wallpaper leaves her mind conflicted while suffering from a nervous condition. Only she is negatively affected. She tries to tell John about her concerns. However, John doesn’t take his wife’s worries seriously. The woman claims that “he is very careful and loving and hardly lets me stir without special direction.” However, she notes that “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” Because of her nervous condition, John tends to patronize his wife. He treats her more like a patient than as his wife. I think this idea and the fact that she lives in the nursery room both rendered the woman to be like a little girl. “And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head.” “‘What is it, little girl?’ he said.” The story is like a little child (in this case, a woman whose treated as one) trying to tell the parent/adult that something is terrorizing her. For example, a boy/girl who claims that there’s a monster under their bed. Or that the Boogeyman lives in their bedroom closet. Instead of taking the child’s concerns seriously, the grown-up dismisses them. The adult believes that the horror which afflicts the boy/girl is nothing more than a nightmare or a figment of their imagination. Such is the case with John and his wife in The Yellow Wallpaper.

Reality and Fantasy mixed into One Mind

It’s normal for some to say they see or hear something only for it to simply be their imagination, never to see those things again. Though is it as normal for someone to see and even hear things more than once? To the point that the things they hear leaves them awake at night, convinced they are not alone even when no one else believes them due to the fact others can’t see or even experience what goes on within the mindset of that person. Charlotte Perkins Gilm’s The Yellow Wallpaper gives us a glimpse to what exactly it’s like to see the same things these people do.

The woman in this story appears to have this exact problem.  From the very beginning of the story we know this is a first person point of view, as we read we will have a chance to see into her mind, what exactly tortures to the point she is constantly paranoid and what contributes to her “nervousness depression”.  It is clear to us that this woman suffers of schizophrenia, describing the “strange, provoking, formless sort of figure” by the yellow wallpaper. These hallucinations she sees creeping on the wall design she detests so much plague her mind as she fights to secure her grip on reality. It’s mentioned that not only this woman’s husband is a medical physician but so is her brother, yet neither men believes she is ill in any way, saying she needs nothing more but fresh air, exercise and a quiet place to stay in, which resulted the woman staying in a nursery, where her condition only grows worse.

The description of the setting touches upon almost each of the five senses, having us envision  the breath taking home the woman now stays, yet for the protagonist, despite the beautiful scenery of the house, she can feel the eerie atmosphere emitting from the house which she cannot explain. With each passing day, the pressure and stress she feels within this house only grows as she feels this presence within the home and sees the figures plastered against the dreaded wall all to the point she slowly looses her sanity.

Now while her husband, John, does not believe she contains any serious condition, his concern only grows through out the story as he sees his wife worsen, going through drastic measures where he isolates his wife, preventing her from writing as it’s clear this woman is writing in secret, as well with preventing her to walk outside or even see other people. He is constantly reminding her that she is in control of her own mind, how she must pay no mind, clearly indicating that is not as  simple as he believes this is. With the condition she has, not matter how hard she tries, she cannot simply pay no mind to the images she sees as for tricks of the mind are just as real as her husband before her.

But much like many other patients who have been diagnose with schizophrenia soon begins to question the world around her, question the people around her, doubting their love for her as well as doubting her trust for her husband and believes that there could be a chance he wants her trapped. Even after she had found the “answer” of the walls, we see her final descent  into madness, now questioning her own reality.

Prolonged Isolation

Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes a story about a woman’s slow descent into insanity as a result of prolonged isolation by her misguided husband.

 

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story about a woman’s confinement in a large mansion, written in first-person journal style. The woman is revealed to have a “nervous depression” (Page 1, Paragraph 8) and her husband who is a physician (Page 1, Paragraph 7) tries to cure her condition through rest. The woman does not agree with the treatment (Page 1, Paragraph 10) but undergoes the treatment anyway because she wants to be cured.  She is sent to a mansion’s nursery at the top of the house (Page 2, Paragraph 3) and she notices the yellow wallpaper, which she has tremendous disdain for. The woman describes the wallpaper as “dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide — plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions. The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the  slow-turning sunlight” (Page 2, Paragraph 7-8).

Over time, the woman becomes more and more obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room, and eventually believes that there is a woman hiding behind the wallpaper, as she writes “Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern” (Page 5, Paragraph 11-12). Although John, the woman’s husband, is genuinely loving and caring, he does not listen to her complaints about her confinement, as he believes this treatment will make her better. In her later journal entries, the woman becomes more and more obsessed with the wallpaper and the imaginary woman, and her writing style becomes more frantic and disjointed, signifying her descent into madness. The woman tears away at the wallpaper, wanting to free the imaginary woman behind the wallpaper, and by the end of the short story, the woman believes she is the same imaginary woman from the wallpaper, saying that she “got out at last…in spite of you and Kane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back” (Page 9, Final Paragraph).

I personally enjoyed this short story, as I felt the story is somewhat similar to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), which is one of the most iconic horror films of all time. The Shining also features a character’s slow descent into madness as a result of prolonged isolation. Both main characters in The Shining and The Yellow Wallpaper lose their sense of self and become deranged and psychotic.

The Woman Behind the Wallpaper

The story, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, is a story about a woman struggling with depression and her husband John who is a physician. The story is told in first person perspective and the narrator is the wife as she unravels her inner thoughts to the reader about how she feels about the depression and how she feels about how John takes care of her. He took care of her and she appreciated it completely but she wished she wasn’t restrained from writing even though she gets exhausted just by writing. She even has her own personal diary in which the story is being told through. Neglecting orders from her physician who is also her husband shows how much she loves to write and she even states it in the story when she writes “I think sometimes if i were only well enough to write a little it would even relieve the press of ideas and rest me”. What supports this more is how she describes the colonial mansion she lives in as haunted, it just shows how she feels about not being able to freely write.

I believe the narrator just wanted an escape from her depression and understandingly so, though i can not say i understand what the narrator is going through but just using the imagery of how she describes it and how the narrator state of mind is, well its scary to think about. Writing was her escape but she also had a source of chain and ball so to say and that was the wallpaper in the room in her estate. It was previously the nursing home/playroom for children. She believes that she is better off using the room instead of any blessed child of hers. This goes hand in hand with her state of depression and how she views the room as a prison one cant escape from, just how any parent would not want a child they love to be stuck and unable to escape. She hated the room and more specifically the torn up wallpaper that her husband John restrained her from tearing off because he did not want to give in to her sickness even though he believed she was not really sick according to the narrator.

The wife was obsessed with this wallpaper and she grew increasingly more obsessed with it to the point that she started noticing the patterns it had and even noticed that it had a smell to it. She grew mad along with her obsession. Through the wallpaper she noticed a woman who was “creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in high wind”. She wanted to catch this woman and restrain her but she started seeing more and more women creeping and then later believed that she too came from the wallpaper. She tore off the wallpaper, “I’ve got out at last!” she yelled passionately at her husband. Honestly i believe this was her last attempt of freeing herself from her depression and escape from it forever but it might have been too late.

Set Yourself Free

Yellow Wallpaper is a story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman talking about a woman that goes insane due to being locked up in a room with no outside communication but her husband and a nurse. Let me explain, the narrator and her husband had a child and through this the narrator becomes depressed. Her husband then takes her to the countryside to give her “rescare” as there house gets fixed which is more like trapping her. The narrator is forbidden to do most things like writing which calms her, so instead of listening she writes in secret as the nurse leaves and the husband goes away for work. As time passes by she begins to notice strange things behind her yellow wallpaper looking like face or faces even looking like a trapped person trying to be freed. The narrator then rips down the wallpaper revealing not a women but nothing at all shortly going mad shortly after. Not noticing the wallpaper was personified to be her.

This story itself is a giant symbol of oppression  that men had over women and the way women were meant to act. This story show how the evolution of women becoming independent and gain their own rights. The women behind the wall paper was the the narrator, it was her inner self begging to be free once again and not trapped and the narrator goes mad not fulfilling her inner self’s needs. This story was a crazy one where the narrator gets trapped and not strong enough to truly free herself.

The Yellow Wallpaper

The short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1899) is about a female protagonist that suffers from a mental illness that worsens over time due to the lack of outside stimuli. She is married to a physician and has a child with him, they move to a mansion like home for three months, to give her some space and a change of scenery for her to rest and get better in health. Her diagnostic is: “temporary nervous depression…hysterical tendency” (pg. 1, Paragraph 8) This piece of literature was published in the late 1800s, in this time diagnosis for illness of the mind were not so easy to identify such as: obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, etc. This is one reason why the wife of John the physician wasn’t “properly” taken care of, however in this point in time he is doing the best medically for his wife. He constricts her life to, “take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I well again.” (Pg. 1, paragraph 10) to keep her calm and well rested and free from stress by isolating her from the world as much as possible. In order to cope with isolation, she leads her to focus on the house and she speaks about it in her journal entry as to keep her mind busy. She speaks about the different aspects of her home, the details she expresses makes the house almost welcoming. Except for one small detail, which eventually leads to a mental breakdown.

In the beginning, the narrator speaks about the house and all its details, however when it comes to moving into a room to sleep in, her husband neglects her input because he knows what’s best for her. They end up in the room upstairs with a magnificent view but one small detail that will lead to her mental disorder to worsen. There is a yellow wallpaper in that room and according to her, “The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.” (page 2, paragraph 8-9) shows us the discomfort she feels with this piece of paper. She confronts her husband about this, in which he responds with, “I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.” (page 2 paragraph 23) Meaning he will not change the wallpaper for her saying, “after the wallpaper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on.” (page 2 paragraph 24) As I was reading this, it reminded about the prose poem “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid in which the girl was given a set of restrictions and rules to follow just like the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, was restricted from going outside, to vist family, and was restricted to the confines of her room. As time progresses, the yellow wall paper becomes something more, a form of outer expression for the narrator, she says, “The front pattern does move — and no wonder! The woman behind it shakes it!” (page 7, paragraph 20) “Then in the very bright spots keeps still, and in the very shady spots she takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.” (page 7, paragraph 22) “And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern – it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.” (page 7, paragraph 23) These observations that the narrator writes down in her journal entry, expresses the sanity in which her mind is in as of now. For me the bars represent the prison she feels trapped in because of the isolation she is kept in by her husband, the woman she speaks of that is creeping around is a depiction of herself, and the many heads could be the breakdown in her mental state.

Inside her MIND

The story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins is told through the lens of a woman who sees the world differently from everyone else. The story starts off as one would say, just like any other story, explaining the scenery and some reasoning of why the characters are where they are. It then starts evolving into the plot which is the telling of a woman who has experiences like no one else in the story, it seems. She begins focusing on a particular wallpaper which is in one of the rooms of their new home. She begins preoccupied with it in a way which tells the reader this wallpaper is going to be a big part of the story. She begins speaking about the wallpaper as if it was another character in the story, and the narrator too is aware of this personification saying “I never say so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have” (Perkins, 3)

The narrator begins explaining of her “illness” and delves  in to what she and others perceive of her being not well. In many ways she hints of knowing she is not well and wanting to be better by doing the things she loves to do. Her husband in this story becomes what stops her from doing so. Her husband being a physician talks to her as if she were a cild, calling her child directly. It can be assumed her husband does not believe the narrator is sick at all but in tern acting as if something is wrong just to get her way. He tells her “you know the place is doing you good and really dear I don’t care to renovate the house just for a three months’ rental” (Perkins, 2) I can see how the narrator starts to become frustrated with herself and with everyone around her, becoming more and more fascinated with the wallpaper, making it an escape of some sort from reality.

She begins with wanting to know more of the wallpaper, imagining how the life it had before she moved in. Picturing children ripping the paper down because they couldn’t bare the sight of it the way she did. She begins in a way becoming the wallpaper, preparing a way in which she must break free. It is hard to say exactly what type of mental illness she suffered from and to say one in particular would be speculating. She begins having hallucinations in the room where the wallpaper is, becoming more secretive with her interest in the wallpaper with her husband as to hide what is going on inside her mind. At the end it is clear the wallpaper had possessed her entirely and there was nothing she could do but give in to the new reality which was her inside the wallpaper and the desire to finally break free once and for all.  She has been free from her mind and the life she is living right now.

Trapped inside

The interesting story The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman seems to be about a husband caring for his wife. John, the husband, is a physician. The story was written in 1899 so society was drastically different than it is today. The reader instantly pictures a old creaky mansion or house in the second paragraph. John is also stated to be superstitious so that may come into play later. The woman states that she may have nervous depression and her husband and her brother who is also a physician urge her to follow a medication regimen. They also forbid her to work on anything until she is completely well again. The woman strongly disagrees and believes that excitement and pleasant work would help her condition more than the medications she takes. Deep down, John even believed that she wasn’t truly sick, yet he still prevented her from doing her work; writing. It seems that if John let his wife do what she loved, to write, that she would feel better, but he still advises her to take her medication. She thinks that her husband would think that is absurd that writing could make her feel better. Instead he makes her take cod liver oil and tonics and prevents her from eating rare meat or wine. He would not let her go visit her Cousins Henry and Julia either, which also may have helped her. John would keep telling her to heal herself and feel better but he wasn’t around much of the time and wasn’t helping her cause even further.

The way the entire story is written is also reminiscent of maybe journal, diary, or just small entries of personal comments. Some segments of paragraphs look like “chunks” out of maybe a diary to me.

The author uses great imagery to describe specific scenes, rooms, or areas in the story. A few examples would be “A delicious garden”,or “It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore.”  Another good example would be “The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.” The wallpaper is described in intricate detail in some paragraphs, also adding her experiences or other personal problems into the mix. Most rooms and scenes are described as pleasant except for the nursery or kids room. The wording describes it as very dull, possibly having bad memories in it.

The Cuckoo Clock

Setting: Three months in a colonial mansion with “hedges and walls and gates that lock….a delicious garden–large and shady, full of box bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them“. The genteel swaying to and fro of a pendulum on a Cuckoo Clock. The protagonist (dynamic character) has a condition: a nervous disposition. Her frugal physician husband (static character) “practical in the extreme….who is careful and loving and hardly lets me stir without special direction” has prescribed rest to be followed by more rest, and the protagonist feels “basely ungrateful not to value it more“. “He says we came here solely on my account“…. not because it was “…..let so cheaply“…purely coincidental! The swaying of the pendulum to and fro is a little irregular! “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive……But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control…….I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened onto the piazza and had roses all over the window………but John would hear nothing of it” The pendulum swaying to and fro is becoming erratic. “He laughs at me so about this wall-paper!…….At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me…..You know the place is doing you good……and really, dear, I don’t care to renovate the house just for a three months’ rental”                                                                                                                                       My impatience grows and I imagine how I would rewrite the piece–on page two: during dinner she arose slowly with plate in hand.Feigning continued interest in his patronizing monologue, she made her way slowly to the buffet table behind him. As John droned on, she slowly lifted the bucket of ice-cold she had hidden behind the curtain and approached her unsuspecting husband from behind. Straining as she lifted the heavy bucket above him, she slowly poured it’s contents upon his head. As he jumped from his chair looking at her in disbelief, she calmly said  “Oh, my blessed wet goose.You must not neglect proper self-control”                                          The Plot:   The narrator’s intended that I the reader become impatient,irritated, no! provoked beyond endurance, like the main character and protagonist, that I may better feel her pain; we have to wait until the very last and powerfully short paragraph for John’s comeuppance (resolution of the plot). “Now why should the man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so I had to creep over him every time” The narrator strains our patience throughout the story and to the very end to make that point.The narrator wants us to feel the tortured existence of the protagonist as she oscillates (conflict) between pain (“John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him“) and guilt (“I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!“). The narrator grates on our nerves, slowly building suspense as the plot swings like a erratic pendulum between  the extremes of pain/anger on one side and guilt/conformity to social mores on the other. Finally, we are reprieved and breathe a sigh of relief in the second to last paragraph (climax) when the cuckoo finally screams out!– the protagonist has pulled off most of the wallpaper!. The climax and resolution were kept to the very end, the final two paragraphs. This sudden climax and resolution serves to underline our agitation.                                                                                                   

Historical note: The protagonist’s physician/psychiatrist, Weir Mitchell (father of neurology) was born on February 15, 1829 in Philadelphia. He was an ardent proponent of the rest cure for nervous diseases. Isolation and confinement to bed (sensory deprivation) were key elements.His treatment was also used on Virginia Woolf, who wrote a savage satire of it in her novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925). In the year and place of his birth, the new prison discipline of separate confinement was introduced at the Eastern State Penitentiary. Commentators attributed the high rates of mental breakdown of prisoners subjected to the punishment, to the system of isolating prisoners in their cells. Charles Dickens, who visited the Philadelphia Penitentiary during his travels to America, described the “slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body” (the historical note was  largely copied from Wikipedia

“May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies. ”― Voltaire