Short Story Review- The Yellow Wallpaper

Intro

Imaginative and engaging writing is a fairly straightforward two-part harmony between the writer and the reader.

Some people are born with a knack (talent) for writing and acquire the skill with practice. The knack can be freed and developed (this is the fun part of writing). The skill needs to studied and honed with practice.

The knack wants wild, flight. The skill needs to be harnessed with hard work, study and discipline (this is the hardest for me).

Writing Advice

William Zinsser was a legendary of writing. His book “On Writing Well” is a must-read for any wannabe writer. He gives timeless and priceless advice. Zinsser stressed simplicity and efficiency, but also style and enthusiasm. My favorites are are posted above my computer:

  1. Write in the first person: “Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.”
  2. The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. “The mantra is: simplify, simplify.”
  3. Writing is hard work: “A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

The Yellow Wallpaper

This short story is a great one. It is a popular short story that a lot of beginning classes of American Literature use.

Background of the Author

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a 19th century American writer and lecturer about gender.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut. She published her best-known short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper” in 1892.

One of her greatest works of non-fiction, “Women and Economics” was published in 1898. Along with writing books, she established a magazine, “The Forerunner” was published from 1909 to 1916.

Gilman committed suicide on August 17, 1935, in Pasadena, California. She discovered she had inoperable breast cancer.

She was a writer who believed in using literature to advance her ideas about women equality. She was a feminist who encouraged women to gain economic independence.

Summary

Snapshot: “The Yellow Wallpaper” describes a woman’s descent into madness as a result of inadequate patriarchal medical care. Gilman’s story is based on personal experience.

The time is the late 19th century. The narrator and her husband John have rented a beautiful, secluded estate for the summer.

The narrator has some sort of breakdown. She is ordered to “rest.” She is told what room in the house she will stay in on the second floor. The narrator prefers a smaller, prettier room on the first floor. She feels uncomfortable in the house.

She wants to spend her time writing but she is told by husband doctor to do “nothing.” Everyone in her family thinks her need for writing or reading is a terrible idea. She can’t do anything she enjoys.

The narrator becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room. She starts to trace the pattern of the wallpaper. She becomes convinced there is a woman trapped in the wallpaper.

She strips the wallpaper off to free the trapped woman. She declares herself free and starts crawling around the room and peeling the wallpaper. The narrator declares herself free of the prison of the yellow wallpaper prison.

Her husband sees her and the state of the room and he faints. The narrator continues to creep around the room.

Analysis

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a gothic horror tale. The story is told in strict first-person narration. All the writing is focused on the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the troubled young woman narrator.

All her thoughts are filtered through her sporadic emotions. She is at odds with other characters in the story. She is in a state of anxiety and stress throughout the story.

We see flashes of sarcasm, anger, humor and depression. All her thoughts are in the present tense. All the action of the story takes place in one bedroom of a large summer home.

The narrator has just given birth to a little girl. She is suffering from postpartum depression. She feels is not a good mother. She has failed to meet the expectations of motherhood and society.

This realization is driving her crazy because it conflicts with her desire to be independent of her husband and be a writer.

The narrator sees the yellow wallpaper as prison bars. The wallpaper of the room is a prison inside the domestic sphere of marriage. The woman trapped in the wallpaper is her true self. She wants to escape her husband, her life and society’s expectations.

If she can get out of the room than she can escape her depression.

Impression

Gilman is a master of imagery. She gets her point without you knowing what she is doing- the sign of a master storyteller.