Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Short Story 4*s
Short Story

This may be a short story but it is a disquieting one to say the least. Based upon the author’s experience in the late 1800’s when diagnosed by a physician of a nervous disease she was prescribed ‘rest cure’ which meant that she was to stay in bed all day and only allowed mental stimulation for two hours a day… this led to a near total mental decline.

The story features a young woman who has a baby, although he or she, is kept well ‘off-page’ as the subject who has moved into an old house with a creepy feel to it as she lies in a room with yellow peeling wallpaper.

The journal entries written by the woman in the bed, written in secret to hide them from her physician husband, who has diagnosed her with a nervous disease and banned her from leaving the house or having any mental stimulation.
Alone in the room the woman sees first patterns and then more disturbing things in the yellow on the wall which mirror the stretching and then the breaking of her mind although the ending is cleverly left open to interpretation.

The author wrote the story to warn others against rest cures but it has come to be viewed as one of the earliest examples of feminist writing and I can’t disagree. Somehow you can’t imagine a healthy man struggling with a new role in life being told to go to his room until he felt better!!

This is one of those stories that make me truly grateful that I was born when I was!



First Published: 1892
No of Pages: 27
Genre: Short Story
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

37 thoughts on “The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

  1. Ah, even now women are told that they are ‘unreasonable’ or ‘hysterical’ whenever they dare to raise their voices or disagree with something… Yes, a very disturbing story.


  2. When I read this for the first time long, long ago, I didn’t really think of the feminist aspects – it just seemed like a mega-creepy horror story kinda in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. It was only on a more recent re-read that I kinda “got the point” – but I still get creeped out when I think of the ending…


  3. This does sound very disturbing, Cleo. It’s even more disturbing to think that this sort of thing wasn’t uncommon. It reflects a pattern, rather than one isolated instance, and that makes it even eerier.


  4. Ohh, sounds like one I need to get my hands on. It’s interesting how often ‘rest cures’ come up in history prior to WWI – I guess after that they didn’t have the ‘luxury’.


  5. Great review, Cleo! I just ordered it for myself. 🙂 I’m always fascinated by the history of treating behavioral health is issues in general but particularly in women. This book reminded me of how I felt when I read Mary: Mrs. A Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman a few years ago. It was before I started blogging so I didn’t write a full review but parts of it made my blood boil. If a husband or son wanted a woman out of the way, all he had to do was have her declared incompetent.


  6. This was my professor’s favorite story to teach because it always got a reaction from the students (tough crowd at 8am).

    I only remember bits and pieces and need to reread it, but I remember how it completely ruined the word “smooch” for me. Lol. With Valentine’s Day so close, that word is everywhere!


  7. Ooh, I hate those guys who “lock” their wives away…whether it’s in their bedroom, or a psychiatric institution. Some of the best thrillers come from these circumstances, though. Thanks for sharing.


  8. I remember reading this back in college. Such a disturbing story, more so after you’ve picked it to pieces with literary criticism! The fact that it has stuck with me ever since then (and it’s been a while) just proves what a well-written piece it is. Thanks for sharing!


  9. This,sounds fascinating. Every time I read a book like this I thank my lucky stars I live when I do…but also where I do as I fear there are women being locked away and writing in secret even now.


  10. I love this story. I read it about 20 years ago and it has never left me. Lucky enough to catch a really creepy performance of it at the fringe in Edinburgh one year.


  11. This is one of my favourite short-stories, and quite a scary one. I was 21 when I read it, and I just had a big row with my then-boyfriend about children: He wanted them, I was not sure. Enter my feminist and American literature professor, who kindly brought a psychiatrist to explain post-partum depression for us, and I had made a decision: I am under no obligation to have children. And I should enjoy it. Also, thanks heavens for the time I was born in too, Cleo!!!!


  12. We recently read and analyzed this story in school! It was a lot creepier once I understood everything that was happening (like the smudges on the wall being where she was rubbing against it and pacing around the room)! Good thoughts on this, by the way! 🙂


  13. Great post. I too believe it is a great example of feminist literature. It is so interesting to analyse the text as a critique of a patriarchal form of control that manages to ensure female subordination and oppression through the female’s own participation. For instance, the line, ‘He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind’, comes to mind!


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