- Author – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- Genre – Short Story (Feminism)
- Date – 1892
The Yellow Wallpaper served as a wakeup call for the American society, towards women’s physical and psychological well being. It is rightly credited as the stepping stone of American feminist literature. The story is narrated by the protagonist, Jane, in the form of journal entries. Her husband, John, is a physician and has confined her to a bedroom which is on the upper level of the mansion. He believes that she is suffering from a “temporary nervous disorder – a slight hysterical tendency ” and restricts her from working, giving her time to recuperate. Not stopping at that, he also restricts her movement around the house with a gate across the top of the stairs and the windows of the bedroom are barred.
The story deals with the psychological effect of this confinement on Jane and her eventual departure from reality. The room is said to be stark, minimally furnished and in bad shape. With nothing to do, she focuses on the only thing that appears interesting in the otherwise bland room, the wallpaper and its design. The wallpaper with its yellow colour invokes revolting thoughts. Her confinement heightens her anxiety and her senses. She feels the yellow wallpaper is emitting foul odour and feels repulsed by it. Over the period of time, she starts making out shapes and things in the pattern of the wallpaper and believes that there are women creeping behind the pattern and she is one of them. Jane locks herself in the room and when the summer rental is up, refuses to leave the room and step outside in the “Green” world.
The story reveals the complexities of human mind. The downward spiral journey of Jane from being a new mother to a mentally challenged person is heart wrenching, to say the least. Also, it brings into focus how women in those times were typecast and their opinion hardly considered. Jane’s idea of recuperation, in the form of working, being more socially active and spending time with her newborn, is dismissed by her husband.
The story ends in a shocking manner; however readers are divided over the possible interpretation. One thing is certain that the author succeeds in making her point loud and clear. This book is a must read, not just for women but also for readers who are often left puzzled by the vagaries of the human brain.