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 inĀ The Yellow Wallpaper.

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