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.

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