Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

"The Yellow Wallpaper," which was first published in the New England Magazine in 1892 after being rejected by the editor of The Atlantic, did not receive much serious attention until American writer and critic William Dean Howells published it in his The Great Modern American Stories in 1920. In that volume he wrote: "Now that I have it in my collection, 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." It was not until 1973, when it was republished after being out of print for years, that the first lengthy analysis of the story was written by Elaine R. Hedges. Writing in the afterword to the volume, she stated that '"The Yellow Wallpaper' is a small literary masterpiece" and a work that "does deserve the widest possible audience."

Since then, "The Yellow Wallpaper" has received widespread critical attention. Contemporary scholars have interpreted the story in numerous ways, with feminist readings being the most common. Reviewers focus on the relationship between the narrator and her husband John, maintaining that John's treatment of his wife represents the powerlessness and repression of women during the late nineteenth century. Hedges concluded that the story is ''one of the rare pieces of literature we have by a nineteenth-century woman which directly confronts the sexual politics of the male-female,...

(The entire section is 429 words.)