“It is the strangest yellow, that wallpaper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw – not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.”
― Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper
I’ve come to realize that I tend to automatically recommend either novels or memoirs, which is natural because a majority of what I read is long fiction. However, there’s still a plethora of short fiction that is worth reading as well. I may not read short stories that often, but I’ve still come across some that are great. One of my favorites is the bizarre story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
I say bizarre, because it truly is one of the strangest pieces of fiction I have ever read. Simply put, the story is about a woman’s slow descent into madness. The story is written as secret journal entries by the main character whose initial narrative voice sounds sane. The only issue she mentions is that she is going through treatment for her nervous depression.
Her journal entries are considered secret because her husband, who is also her doctor, says that her treatment requires that she do nothing active, which includes working and writing.
The narrator feels the opposite, believing that keeping her mind active will help her situation. She chooses to write about where she is staying and how she spends her days. In doing so, certain details signal like red flags amidst the general calm atmosphere of how she spends her life. Eventually, she becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom, and I’ll leave the rest for you to find out.
Overall, an analysis of this short story portrays the inferior status of women in society during the 19th century in a peculiar, yet effective manner. However, that is not what I love most about this story. It is the fact that once the story is concluded, it makes you want to reread it, because by the end the narrator’s reliability is lost and all the events that previously transpired fall into shadow.