Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category

Book #36: The Yellow Wallpaper

Oh. My. God.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

I feel like “The Yellow Wallpaper” is one of those “English majors’ torture” stories. It’s the story that teachers and professors assign to their students when they want to freak them out and really get discussion going.

Thus, I’m very familiar with this short story.

Nothing, of course, will ever compare to the sheer horror of reading it for the first time. But it can still be a pretty interesting read.

My professors always want me to read it. They say it’s an interesting story. They say that Ms. Gilman gets inside the narrator’s head in an interesting way. They say that if you want to write, this is a good story to study. “It’s good for you,” they say. “You’ll learn from it.”

At this point I’m just horrified and, frankly, a little bored.

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There’s a very obvious feminist reading in this story, though. The narrator is having a nervous breakdown after she has a baby. She thinks that maybe getting out and doing things will help her, but he says she shouldn’t. Her opinions don’t matter. He’s a doctor and he knows what’s best for his wife.

And what’s best is to be shut up in a room with awful yellow wallpaper, so she can rest until she feels better.

She doesn’t really have a voice, my professors tell me. The men in her life are completely controlling her. It’d be enough to drive anybody crazy.

I really wish I didn’t have to read this story again. But it’s assigned in yet another class. This time we can talk about the gothic elements maybe, they say. Of course we’ll really just get into the “trapped woman” thing. But it’ll be slightly different. Maybe.

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There are lots of ways to read this story. We can read it from a Gothic perspective, a feminist perspective. We can read it as a horror story or maybe even a ghost story. Every time I read the story, it shifts and changes. I can’t seem to pin it down. It’s very strange. But maybe if I read it a few more times I’ll be able to figure it out.

No one’s assigning it anymore. But I know that if I just take a bit longer, I’ll finally know what it means. They can’t stop me now.

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I’ve figured it out. It’s about a real woman. She’s really there and Ms. Gilman has trapped her in the story. But she’s real and she’s there. Sometimes I can hear her wailing from the pages of my textbook. I know she’s there. Sometimes I think she gets out though. I feel like I see her walking around campus.

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I’m going helping her escape. I’m slowly tearing the pages away. Soon they won’t be able to put her back in the story. Soon she will finally be out of that room. She won’t have to creep or wail or lay in bed with nothing to do.

I think the story is about me.

I rip the pages out. They can’t stop me. I’m not defacing a book. I’m getting my freedom.

I’ve got out at last, Professor. In spite of you and the others. And I’ve ripped out most of the pages, so you can’t put me back.

 

(I hope people get what I did here. Otherwise this’ll just be a really freaking weird blog post, huh?)

Rating: *****
Up Next: Bunner Sisters

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