The Yellow Wallpaper
Paper, Paper, On the Wall...
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of the most prominent feminists and social thinkers at the turn of the century. Her best fiction, The Yellow Wallpaper, is also her least typical. It is about a young wife and mother's mental deterioration as recorded in journal by the main character. As read beside Gilman's own breakdown, it is a terrifying portrayal. Originally, it was interpreted as a horror story, as seen in William Dean Howells' essay in his 1920 anthology. Howell writes, "I shiver over it as much as I did when I first read it in manuscript, though I agree with the editor of The Atlantic of the time, that it was too terribly good to be printed"(pp. vii-xiv). It was this misinterpretation, which allowed The Yellow Wallpaper to be overlooked for almost fifty years, until it was rediscovered by the budding feminist movement. The movement found that The Yellow Wallpaper was one of the rare pieces of literature, which directly confronts the sexual politics of the male-female, husband-wife relationship. There are two symbolic aspects the Gilman uses to bring these sexual politic to light. The aspects are (1) the nursery and all its furnishings, and (2) the imaginary woman behind the pattern.
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