“The Yellow Wallpaper” As A Horror Story?!

  • According to one examination of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and its publication history, the story did remain in print in between its reprint in 1920 and its feminist re-discovery in the 1970s: in horror-story collections. In what ways do you see “The Yellow Wall-Paper” as a horror story? Include specific references to the text to support your claims.

“I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern DOES move–and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women, behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over” (Gilman, pg. 9-10).

Now, this quote, visually, is very creepy. Taking place the time in the story, night, and what is going on like seeing numerous women then only one behind a wallpaper that is moving is skin crawling. Speaking of crawling, the women behind the wallpaper crawls, she doesn’t walk. Thinking of this reminds me of the movie “The Ring”, for those who may not have a clue of what I am talking about here’s a visual.

Image result for the ring

“Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. 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” (Gilman, pg. 10).

Image result for three headed woman

This also adds to the visually disturbing view because not only does the women trapped in the wallpaper crawl but also has many heads. Now, it is unclear if the narrator is referring to the amount of head as the numerous women behind the bars or how many heads that one women behind the bars has. But, this leaves the reader to be open to imagination and depending on where that imagination leads the reader can be classified as horrifying or normal. But when I try to see how this story is viewed as a horror story then a women with many heads crawling is what comes to mind. That’s the way I see this story as a horror story.

At first reading, I did not perceive this to be creepy at all, just very creative writing, somewhat like poetry. But, being that when this story was rediscovered, 1970’s, the first thought that came to my mind about why it would be classified as a horror story is that not only is this story creative in a way that isn’t regularly thought of but, it would probably be looked at as if the narrator has a mental problem that, at the time, could not be explained very well or medically treated properly and is taking the reader into the mind of someone who is ‘not normal’. So when people do not fully understand where something is coming from or just simply don’t understand they tend to label it and shy away from it. That’s the first thought that came to mind when I thought of why it can be seen as a horror story.

2 thoughts on ““The Yellow Wallpaper” As A Horror Story?!

  1. Muhammad Qasim

    That is an interesting point, I agree that this story does have an aspect of horror in it. I assume that the part about the woman moving in the wallpaper moving is used to show how the narrator has lost her mind over the course of the story. For example, in the beginning, the narrator does seem calmer. However, throughout the story, she gradually becomes delusional when she becomes convinced that the wallpaper is moving, as a woman trapped inside attempts to break free. The lack of freedom, which makes her feel trapped in the house, from her husband causes this psychological meltdown. That’s where the psychological horror comes, the narrator starts to compare herself to the woman trapped in the wallpaper and sees illusions of the woman crawling.

  2. Jody R. Rosen

    In class when we were talking about the house, the ancestral mansion, Manu compared it to the hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining, as a building that seems normal at first but then reveals its horrific secrets through the mind of someone disturbed.

    Duane’s reading offers us some great passages to look at as examples of the kind of horror our narrator witnesses. Is she the only one who is there to notice, or the only one who can see the wallpaper as creeping horror? Another way of thinking about this is to ask whether she has special vision for the horrific, which could mean that it’s her so-called nervous condition that makes her see things, or that it empowers her to see things.

    Note also in the quotation Duane provides that the woman appears to be behind bars. How is imprisonment a factor in the horror? How is it different when the wallpaper woman is outside vs. in the wallpaper?

    Is there a way that other stories we read could be cast in this same light? We’re not doing this project this semester, but in what ways could “The Story of an Hour” or “A Jury of Her Peers” or “A Rose for Emily” be read as or transformed into a horror story without much effort?


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