Now previously, I had been spoilt for choice when it came to reading short stories. Dabbling in the creeping horrors of H.P. Lovecraft and his works, I was a bit reluctant to return to the world of the weird and normal. Thankfully, Charlotte Perkins’ story was anything but dull.
The Yellow Wallpaper illustrates one young woman’s decline into madness. We never learn the woman’s name, but the story is told within the first-person narrative. We also learn that the unnamed narrator had just given birth to a child, and her husband believes that for her safety that resting in a colonial mansion is the best way for her to recover. However, the room that the narrator stays in is damaged with torn wallpaper and the floorboards holding visible scratch marks. This leaves the narrator in a state of caution as she has no clue what had caused the damage of the room.
With every passing day the woman describes the room (in particular, the wallpaper) with more and more detail. Readers can note that through this not only is the woman entrapped in a single area, but her powers of patience and observation are being tested to the utmost limits. Eventually, she begins to see a figure in the design of the wallpaper…
I believe Charlotte Perkins’ The Yellow Wallpaper was made as a statement towards the social position of American women during the 19th century. During this period women themselves had very little standing socially, and in the presence of a patriarchal society, barely had an identity outside of the their home. Furthermore, I believe that the story is another way for women (in particular Perkins) to protest the oppression women had felt during this time – especially in the field of medical and psychological wellbeing. As the narrator of the story had just given birth, it was decided that bed rest was the most optimum cure. While the men had the best interests of women in mind, women during the 19th century were portrayed often as weak and of fragile minds. Perkins reverses this idea by illustrating what happens to a person if they’re not given the freedom they deserve.
In conclusion, I believe that The Yellow Wallpaper is a cautionary tale of what the lack of freedom can do to a person.
What do you think? Let me know!