The Psychological Portrait in The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Psychological Portrait in The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was famous in her time as a women's activist. Later, she began writing fiction. As noted in her Norton Anthology biography, Charlotte's stories often reveal her worldview. The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story written to combat the modus operandi for curing depression in her day. This cure consisted of being completely sequestered from any intellectual or artistic engagements. Her addendum to the story also makes clear she experienced this same treatment. Gilman's catalyst was to write a story that would serve as a social corrective. What we are left with today is a masterpiece of psychological suspense.

The story begins with our main character, a writer whose name is never given, imagining the house in which she is to spend her recuperation. In choosing to never name the narrator and main character, Gilman emphasizes the erasure of the individual that takes place within the story. She pictures the house in romantic terms, a colonial mansion or perhaps a haunted house. This romantic identification indicates an emotional person who puts a priority on the natural. Contrarily, her husband is portrayed in no uncertain terms. John is practical, has no patience with faith, and hates superstition. He is skeptical, and scoffs at anything that cannot be "...felt and seen and put down in figures"(658). Clearly, the preliminary material on these two characters sets them in sharp contrast with one another.

The narrator then privately blames her husband, who is also her physician, for her lingering illness. She suggests perhaps it is because he is a physician that she is still ill. She believes this lack of recov...

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... X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 6th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 424-36.

Hume, Beverly A. "Gilman's Interminable Grotesque': The Narrator of 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 28.4 (1991):477-84.

Johnson, Greg. "Gilman's Gothic Allegory: Rage and Redemption in 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 26.4 (1989):521-30.

King, Jeannette and Pam Morris. "On Not Reading between the Lines: Models of Reading in 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 26.1 (1989): 23-32.

Owens, E. Suzanne. "The Ghostly Double behind the Wallpaper in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Haunting the House of Fiction. Ed. Lynette Carpenter and Wendy K. Kolmar. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1991 64-79.

Scharnhorst, Gary. "'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Boston: Twayne, 1985. 15-20.
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