The Yellow Wallpaper

Let’s start with a short story, eh?

The Yellow Wallpaper

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I’m pretty sure I was first introduced to this piece in one of my college literature courses, and in a sea of words and images, it holds steady as one that has affected me most. Would I call it shocking? I’m not sure. I don’t think it shocked me on first read, and yet I think it found some core place inside me and gave it a jolt. I’m not convinced I had ever been horrified in quite that way before, or, perhaps, since.

My three favorite things, since I’ve decided to choose:

  • Whose genre is it anyway?
    While it’s pretty widely accepted as a feminist piece, on a plot/story level, it’s really horror, don’t you think? Gilman’s portrayal of a woman descending into madness is terrifying as well as heartbreaking.
  • History tells the story.
    “The Yellow Wallpaper” was published in 1892, and a quick study of 19th century politics and medical practice is all you need to see what Gilman was responding to. I am always fascinated by the way literature reflects the culture of the time in which it was written.
  • Creepy creeping woman.
    It’s a fascinating word, right? Years ago (no, we’re not counting), my bestie and I had a mini book club with my niece, and we spent a significant amount of time discussing the word. I invite you to ponder why and under what circumstances a woman might creep. Samantha was kind enough to give us a demonstration, and it brought my reading of the story to a whole new place. A creepy one, if you will.

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