Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review - The Yellow Wall Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Book Summary from Goodreads

First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper – a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, The Yellow Wall-Paper stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.
My Review - 4 Great to the Last drop

This is more of an essay, short story but such an amazing one to discuss mental illness.  I slightly remember reading this in school but as it is mentioned in numerous works I wanted to read again.

My favourite  parts were the way the main character described the Wallpaper, so many different ways, intricate patterns, nightmarish, claustrophobic, creepy but through the descriptions beautifully crafted by words in a weird way.

My favourite - The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.  You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are.  It slaps you in the face, knocks you down and tramples upon you.  It is like a bad dream.

She was suffering from Postpartum Depression but her husband John is a Physician and doesn't think she is sick just thinks she needs time to relax during her temporary 'illness'. 

I do like that she used a diary to express herself, this is how we hear the story so of course we don't know the true journey.  Is she really crazy?  Was getting away and being put in a room you hated with yellow wall paper a mistake.  She is happy her baby doesn't have deal with the horrid wall paper, some how I found this ironic.

I would have preferred if the diary had dates in it to know how many entries she actually did, at times it was confusing, the same day entry, next day, few days or a week later, I was unsure.

This was a story that made me smile which is sad because of course we are talking about someone not well but I  enjoyed the light hearted tragedy told like this.  It did make me question the decision to treat her illness the way they did, the ending with the husband's reaction was priceless.

I can see this being a great debatable book during an English class.


  1. I didn't even know this book was written as a series of journals until I finished the book. LOL. I was wondering why a lot of the passages felt jumpy. Then I had to go back and revisit the passages. Glad you enjoyed this!

  2. I've never read this but have heard a lot about it. It sounds like a story I would enjoy.

  3. Gilman's novel is even more relevant today than when it was first printed. More than merely a narrative of female intellectual oppression or a critique of late 19th century social mores, "The Yellow Wallpaper" documents a practice that was common among the middle and upper class. Known as the "rest cure," women who displayed signs of depression or anxiety were committed to lie in bed for weeks at a time, and allowed no more than twenty minutes of intellectual exertion a day. Believing that intellectual activity would overwhelm the fragile female mind, "rest cure" refers to the prevention of women from thinking, relying on the assumption that the natural state of the female mind was one of emptiness. Seeing as how the women were confined to empty rooms with no exercise or stimulation of any kind, the obvious consequence was that the women became still more anxious, which reinforced the convictions of the doctors and husbands that their wives needed further rest.

  4. I read this a while ago and found it pretty disturbing.

  5. Mental illness is an intriguing subject to me. I think I will add this to my read list. Definitely will have to find when I am in the mood. Great review!

  6. I remember reading this one in an English Lit class and it fascinated me. There's such an anxious and creepy feel to the story. Like you said, the husband's reaction was priceless.

  7. I read this in high school too (and even acted out a scene from it for drama club) but I know that I didn't really get how awful it was. I mean, she has PPD and her husband tells her to rest? Terrifying! And that cover you showed is super creepy!


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