The Yellow Wallpaper Questions and Answers
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper book cover
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What is the style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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The literary style of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that of the "unreliable narrator." The story is told from a first-person perspective, with only one point-of-view, and so there is no way of telling if the reader is getting the whole truth. Without a second point-of-view, or even a third-person narration style, the story can only be seen from one angle: the narrator, who is suffering first from post-partum depression and then from an increasingly severe mental breakdown.

This style is seen in many stories, from realistic crime fiction to fantasy and space opera. By re-reading the story with an understanding of the narrator's unreliability -- not dishonesty, but instead the inability to speak objectively -- the story can develop multiple meanings and interpretations. As "The Yellow Wallpaper" is deliberately a story about gender roles and cultural conventions, its interpretation usually remains the same regardless of the reading, but there could be a case made for the narrator's mental...

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The Evils of the “Resting Cure”

As someone who almost was destroyed by S. Weir Mitchell’s “resting cure” for depression, it is not surprising that Gilman structured her story as an attack on this ineffective and cruel course of treatment. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an illustration of the way a mind that is already plagued with anxiety can deteriorate and begin to prey on itself when it is forced into inactivity and kept from healthy work. To his credit, Mitchell, who is mentioned by name in the story, took Gilman’s criticism to heart and abandoned the “resting cure.” Beyond the specific technique described in the story, Gilman means to criticize any form of medical care that ignores the concerns of the patient, considering her only as a passive object of treatment. The connection between a woman’s subordination in the home and her subordination in a doctor/patient relationship is clear—John is, after all, the narrator’s husband and doctor. Gilman implies that both forms of authority can be easily abused, even when the husband or doctor means to help. All too often, the women who are the silent subjects of this authority are infantilized, or worse.