The Yellow Wallpaper Study Guide
The Yellow Wallpaper: Themes
The Yellow Wallpaper: Characters
The Yellow Wallpaper: Analysis
The Yellow Wallpaper: Quotes
The Yellow Wallpaper: Essays and Further Analysis
The Yellow Wallpaper: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
The Yellow Wallpaper: Questions & Answers
The Yellow Wallpaper: Introduction
The Yellow Wallpaper: Biography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Introduction to The Yellow Wallpaper
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It was originally published in The New England Magazine in 1892. The narrative is formed by a series of journal entries, which the narrator writes in secret. She has been forbidden to write or engage in strenuous activities and is confined to an estate by her husband. Her husband, a respected physician, has diagnosed her with hysteria, a catchall phrase often ascribed to women experiencing some form of mental illness or unrest. The narrator, who has recently had a child, begs her husband to allow her to see her friends or leave the estate, but he denies her requests, insisting that she must overcome her troubles through willpower alone.
The narrator’s deteriorating mental state results in her seeing vivid hallucinations of a woman trapped behind the wallpaper of her room. She becomes fixated on the trapped woman and eventually tears down the wallpaper, which leads her to a crucial realization. The story’s themes surrounding women’s agency, medical neglect, the values of self-expression have made it enduringly popular in feminist circles. Furthermore, the story is at least somewhat autobiographical, as Gilman was prescribed a “rest cure” as treatment for her own depression. A rest cure mandated that the patient remain isolated from outside influences and avoid intellectual or creative activities, and it was commonly prescribed for women diagnosed with hysteria. Gilman experienced a major depressive episode during her period of rest, and she wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” at least in part as a criticism of the practice of suppressing women’s intellectual and creative impulses.
A Brief Biography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935) was an American women’s rights activist, writer, and lecturer whose ideas heavily influenced the women’s movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Gilman grew up in poverty and was abandoned by her father at a young age, leaving her with a limited education. In 1884, she married Charles W. Stetson. Suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of their daughter, Gilman was treated with the rest cure, which only worsened her depression. This experience inspired her to write her best-known short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” about the negative effects this treatment could have on women. Also renowned for her feminist novel Herland and her nonfiction manifesto Women and Economics, Gilman used her affinity for writing to educate her readers on the injustices that women faced during her time.