Form and Content

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The structure of The Yellow Wallpaper creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy. The story is written in a journal-style, first-person narrative which includes nine short entries, each entry indicated by a small space between it and the last. The journal entries span three months during which John attempts to cure his wife’s “nervous condition” through the rest cure of Weir Mitchell, which assumes that intellectual stimulation damages a woman physically and psychologically. In the beginning of the story, the narrator appears sane and believable, but as the story continues, the reader realizes that she is unreliable because she withholds and confuses information. By the end, the structure—short paragraphs, fragmented and disjointed thought patterns— reflects the narrator’s mental disorder. Through the revelations contained in the journal, the reader is allowed an intimate view of the narrator’s gradual mental breakdown.

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The journal begins when John and the narrator move into a temporary home John has procured to provide the narrator the break from routine that he believes necessary for her rest and recovery. She, on the other hand, doubts the necessity of such a move and wonders if the mysterious house is haunted. John reveals his superior attitude toward his wife by laughing at her “fancies,” a response which the narrator finds quite natural because, as she explains, one must expect such treatment in marriage. She even suggests that his indifference to her opinions on the house and her illness keeps her from getting well faster. Her suggestion turns out to be a fateful prediction.

Against her wishes, John decides that he and his wife will sleep in the attic room of the house, which at one point may have been a nursery. Actually, the room seems to be more of a prison than a place for children to play. The windows have bars on them, and the bed is nailed to the floor. There is even a gate at the top of the stairs. Even more disturbing to the narrator, however, is the yellow wallpaper, peeling or pulled off the walls in strips. In the beginning, the paper’s pattern jolts and annoys the narrator’s sensibilities, but later her attitude has a bizarre change.

The narrator’s morbid fascination with the yellow wallpaper is the first clue of her degenerating sanity. She begins to attribute lifelike characteristics to the paper, saying that it knows how it affects her and that its eyes stare at her. She even begins to believe that the paper has two levels, a front pattern and a shadowy figure trapped behind its bars. The narrator betrays the progression of her illness when she begins to believe that the figure behind the wallpaper is a woman, trapped like herself.

The woman behind the wallpaper becomes an obsession. The narrator begins to crawl, like the woman behind the paper, around the edge of the room, making a groove or “smooch” on the wall. The narrator begins to catch glimpses of the woman out the windows, creeping around the garden on her hands and knees. She also starts peeling off the wallpaper in an effort to completely free the woman (or women, as she soon believes) trapped in that second layer. John and his sister, Jennie, begin to suspect that something is terribly wrong, and yet they are pleased with her apparent progress. She appears more normal to them at times because she is saving her energy for nighttime, when the woman behind the paper is most active. Her apparent normality is merely a façade.

The story’s climactic scene occurs as their stay in the rented house is coming to a close. On their last night, John is once again in town attending to a patient, and the narrator asks Jennie not to disturb her. Left alone, the narrator locks herself in the nursery to allow uninterrupted time for peeling wallpaper and thus freeing the shadowy woman. As the narrator works, she identifies more closely and intensely with the trapped woman until, ultimately, she loses her sense of individual identity and merges with the woman behind the wallpaper. John breaks down the door to find his wife crawling amid the torn paper, proclaiming that she is free at last, and no one can put her back behind the wallpaper. John faints, and his wife continues her creeping over his fallen body.

Context

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The publication of The Yellow Wallpaper had both immediate and long-term effects on women’s issues. Gilman writes in her essay “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper” that the story was meant to save women from further suffering under the rest cure, and that her plan was successful. She says that after her former physician, Weir Mitchell, read a copy of the story that she had sent to him, he altered his treatment of women with nervous disorders. Therefore, the novella served an immediate purpose in the real, everyday lives of late nineteenth and early twentieth century women.

Originally viewed as a gothic horror story in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, The Yellow Wallpaper also helped to establish Gilman as an important woman writer in this genre. While few other critics gave it much attention, William Dean Howells praised the novella for its ability to “freeze the blood” and included it in his 1920 collection of The Great Modern American Stories. The novella became well known among such later horror writers as H. P. Lovecraft, who included it in Supernatural Horror in Literature (1945).

It was not until the 1970’s and the advent of feminist scholarship, however, that critics began to explore the social, political, and cultural implications of The Yellow Wallpaper. Since then, feminist scholars have identified the novella as an indictment of a social structure which deters women’s intellectual, psychological, and creative growth in an effort to keep women childlike and submissive. The work is now often included in American literature anthologies and feminist resources as a fine early example of fiction that criticizes social restrictions placed on women.

Feminist scholars have also found that the destructive impact of social definitions of womanhood on women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries illustrated in this novella appear in other women’s fiction of the time. For example, the central protagonist of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899) faces similar damaging social definitions of womanhood and, not finding a place for herself among them, commits suicide (not madness, but a similar escape). In another example, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman writes of a woman, “Old Woman Magoun,” who allows her beloved granddaughter to die rather than be traded in a card deal; she then goes mad. Gilman was not alone in showing how misogynistic attitudes destroy women.

Style and Technique

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The most prominent technical and stylistic feature of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is Gilman’s combining of the first-person narrator and present-tense narration. By allowing readers to see only what Jane sees as she sees it, Gilman duplicates as closely as possible the feelings of entrapment, isolation, and unreality that Jane experiences. Jane’s decline into true madness is so gradual and her narrative voice seems so level-headed, even when she describes events that one knows are impossible—such as the creeping women in the garden or the woman struggling to free herself from behind her room’s wallpaper—that one might misread this tale as a ghost story rather than as an account of Jane’s mental deterioration.

By making the descriptions of the women, the room, and the malevolent shapes and faces in the wallpaper so immediate and realistic, Gilman tricks the reader into seeing Jane as simultaneously mad and in the grips of some haunting supernatural specters. This ambiguity increases the shock that readers experience when they realize that Jane has been talking in metaphors throughout her narrative, that she has been recounting her own sense of intellectual and emotional oppression, rather than seeing actual women crawling about on the ground in the gardens or moving behind her room’s wallpaper.

Some readers may be content to let their interpretation of “The Yellow Wallpaper” rest with the supernatural; if left here, however, readers will miss the more important point of Gilman’s tale. Gilman forces readers to reconsider Jane’s entire narrative by means of the story’s conclusion, when Jane finally speaks her own name for the first time as she creeps over her husband’s inert body. Little of the story will then make sense unless reexamined. Gilman plants numerous clues throughout the story that express Jane’s interior struggle to be herself and to reclaim her independence: her need to be creative by keeping a journal, or the existence of the woman for whom Jane demolishes the yellow wallpaper to effect her escape. Similarly, the information that Jane offhandedly supplies readers in the story’s early stages—such as descriptions of the bars on her window, the bite marks on the bed that is bolted to the floor, and her increasing lassitude—now can be reinterpreted as describing the true nature of where Jane has been staying: at an asylum. On second reading, “The Yellow Wallpaper” becomes the story of a woman who, while she may have been depressed, was not insane when she began her cure.

Historical Context

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" was written and published in 1892. The last three decades of the nineteenth century comprised a period of growth, development, and expansion for the United States. Following the Civil War, which ended in 1865, the United States entered the era of Reconstruction, which lasted until 1877. There were many social and cultural changes during this period. Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (1892) expounded his theory of evolution, and further incited controversy over women's roles and issues. His theory of evolution flouted conventional wisdom, contending that women were actually the hardier and more necessary sex, the one able to preserve the species. Because women were mothers, they were vital to survival. Darwin's theory was used to promote both sides of what came to be known as the ''Woman Question." Some scientists argued that because women were physiologically hardier, they were capable of being both mothers and professionals. Others contended that Darwin's theory proved that motherhood was necessary to women and that it should retain a supreme priority in a woman's life.

Throughout much of the 1800s, the common law doctrine of femme convert was prevalent in the United States. Under this law, wives were property of their husbands and had no direct legal control over their earnings, children, or belongings. Some state laws prohibited women from going into business without their husband's consent, and some dictated that a husband could decide where the family would live. Other state laws dictated that adultery was not considered sufficient grounds for divorce if committed by a man, but it was if committed by the wife. Women also could not vote; they were not allowed to do so until 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted. In 1875, in Minor v. Happensett, the Supreme Court ruled that states could withhold the right to vote from women as they did from criminals and the mentally insane. The rise of women's consciousness regarding such oppression was influenced by their participation in the abolitionist movement prior to and during the Civil War. In 1869, the first organizations devoted to women's rights were founded. By 1890, such organizations claimed a total of 500,000 members. While there were more women than men in high school by 1890, higher education was not an option for most women, and the only professions open to them were nursing and elementary education.

Gilman, as a leading feminist and social activist during the late nineteenth century, argued that women's secondary status in society, and especially women's economic dependence on men, was not the result of biological inferiority but rather of culturally enforced behavior. In "The Yellow Wallpaper,'' which was, in part, a reaction to the oppression of women prevalent during this time, Gilman emphasized these beliefs. In 1926, she stated, regarding her work in general, "One girl reads this, and takes fire! Her life is changed. She becomes a power—a mover of others—I write for her.''

Setting

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" takes place in a country house located about three miles from the nearest village. Although the large house is surrounded by hedges, a garden, and servants' quarters, the narrator notes that the house and its grounds have fallen into a state of minor disrepair. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is interested in the surrounding scenery as well as the other rooms in the house. As the story progresses, however, she becomes fixated on the nursery and its wallpaper. The setting has the appearance of tranquility, but is actually a place of confinement—there are bars on the windows of the nursery, and the bed is secured to the floor. The isolated location of the house, its somewhat neglected condition, and her further isolation in the fortress-like nursery, symbolize the narrator's mental condition.

Literary Style

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"The Yellow Wallpaper'' tells the story of a woman's mental breakdown. Suffering from depression following the birth of her first child, the woman is taken to the country by her physician husband, where she is kept in a room decorated with yellow wallpaper that used to be a nursery. Instructed by her husband not to engage in any intellectual activity and to get total bed rest, the narrator becomes obsessed with the wallpaper until, at the end of the story, she goes insane.

Setting
"The Yellow Wallpaper" takes place in a country house that is located about three miles from the nearest village. Although the house is large and is surrounded by hedges, a garden, and servants' quarters, the narrator notes that the house and its grounds have fallen into a slight state of disrepair. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is interested in the surrounding scenery as well as the other rooms in the house. As the story progresses, however, she becomes fixated on the nursery and its yellow wallpaper. The setting has the appearance of tranquility but is actually a place of confinement— there are bars on the windows of the nursery, and the bed is secured to the floor. The isolated location of the house, its slight state of disrepair, and the narrator's further isolation in the fortress-like nursery, all symbolize the narrator's mental condition.

Narration
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is an example of a first-person narrative because it is told exclusively from the viewpoint of the unnamed protagonist, and the reader is given access only to her thoughts and emotions. Since the protagonist is suffering a mental breakdown, she is also considered an unreliable narrator because the reader cannot be certain if she is accurately relating the events of the story. This adds emotional impact to the narrative because the reader is given an intimate account of the protagonist's growing feelings of despair and confusion.

The story itself is, in part, a transcription of a journal which the narrator secretly writes as she lays in bed. The writing style, and the way it changes as the story progresses, gives the reader clues to the protagonist's deteriorating mental condition. For example, throughout the story the narrator's sentences become shorter and more curt, with paragraphs consisting of only one or two sentences. This helps convey her distraught mental state and her inability to think clearly. The overall tone of the narrator's writing also changes. At the beginning of the story, she writes with humility, stating that while she does not agree with her treatment, her husband John probably knows better than she what is good for her. By the end of the narrative, however, a tone of complaint and rebellion has entered the narrator's account. When she locks the door of the nursery at the end of the story, for example, she declares: "I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, until John comes. I want to astonish him."

Symbolism
The most important symbol in the story is the yellow wallpaper. Most critics have concluded that the wallpaper represents the state of mind of the protagonist. In a more general sense, the wallpaper also symbolizes the way women were viewed in nineteenth-century society. It is described as containing "pointless patterns," "lame uncertain curves," and "outrageous angles" that "destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions." Despite the narrator's detailed description of the wallpaper, however, it remains mysterious. Elaine R. Hedges wrote in the afterword to the 1973 edition of the story that "the paper symbolizes [the narrator's] situation as seen by the men who control her and hence her situation as seen by herself. How can she define herself?"

Other important symbols in "The Yellow Wallpaper'' are the nursery, the barred windows, and the nailed-down bed. The nursery is said to represent nineteenth-century society's tendency to view women as children, while the barred windows symbolize the emotional, social, and intellectual prison in which women of that era were kept. Finally, the bed is said by some critics to represent repressed female sexuality.

Psychological Realism
The story is considered an example of psychological realism because it attempts to accurately portray the mental deterioration of the narrator. It is also considered realistic in that it depicts life the way it was for women during the nineteenth century. Gilman deliberately tried to make the narrator typical of that time period: she is economically dependent on her husband, she is not allowed to make her own decisions, she is discouraged from engaging in intellectual activity, and she is frequently treated like a child. Gilman also did not romanticize the character of John. While she could have depicted him sympathetically, she instead painted him as controlling, inconsiderate, and emotionally inaccessible.

Gothicism
Gilman utilizes numerous conventions of Gothic fiction in "The Yellow Wallpaper,'' including horror, dread, dreams, suspense, and the supernatural. For example, the story takes place on an estate, which has fallen into a state of disrepair, three miles from the nearest village. This sense of isolation is frequently used in Gothic stories to create a foreboding tone. The narrator is also struck with the "strangeness" and "ghostliness" of the place. E. Suzanne Owens argues in Haunting the House of Fiction that "to a reader familiar with the Gothic, the events of the story suggest possession as much as they do hallucination."

Literary Qualities

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" is an example of a first-person narrative because it is told exclusively from the viewpoint of the unnamed protagonist, and the reader is given access only to her thoughts and emotions. However, since she is suffering a mental breakdown, she is also considered an unreliable narrator, as the reader cannot be certain if she is accurately relating the events of the story. This adds emotional impact to the narrative because the reader is given an intimate account of the protagonist's growing feelings of despair and confusion.

Since the story is, in part, a transcription of a journal in which the narrator secretly writes, her writing style and the way it changes as the story progresses give the reader clues to her deteriorating mental condition. For example, over time, the narrator's sentences become shorter and more curt, with paragraphs consisting of only one or two sentences. This helps convey her distraught mental state and inability to think clearly. The overall tone of her writing also changes. At the beginning of the story, she writes with humility, stating that while she does not agree with her treatment, her husband probably knows better than she what is good for her. By the end of the narrative, however, a tone of complaint and rebellion takes over her account. When she locks the door of the nursery, for example, she declares: "I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, until John comes. I want to astonish him."

The most important symbol in the story is the yellow wallpaper. Most critics have concluded that the wallpaper represents the state of mind of the protagonist. In a more general sense, the wallpaper also symbolizes the way women were viewed in nineteenth-century society. It is described as containing "pointless patterns," "lame uncertain curves," and "outrageous angles" that "destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions." Despite the narrator's detailed description of the wallpaper, it remains mysterious to the reader. Hedges wrote in the afterword to the 1973 edition that "the paper symbolizes [the narrator's] situation as seen by the men who control her and hence her situation as seen by herself. How can she define herself?"

Other important symbols in "The Yellow Wallpaper" are the nursery, the barred windows, and the nailed-down bed. The nursery is said to represent nineteenth-century society's tendency to view women as children, while the barred windows symbolize the emotional, social, and intellectual prison in which women of that era were kept. Finally, the bed is viewed by some critics as a symbol of repressed female sexuality.

The story is considered part of the genre of psychological realism because it attempts to portray the mental deterioration of the narrator. It is also considered realistic in that it depicts the way life was for women during the nineteenth century. Gilman deliberately tried to make the narrator typical of that time period: she is economically dependent on her husband; she is not allowed to make her own decisions; she is discouraged from engaging in intellectual activity; and she is frequently treated like a child. Further, Gilman did not romanticize the character of John. While she could have depicted him sympathetically, she instead painted him as controlling, inconsiderate, and emotionally inaccessible.

Critics have also identified numerous conventions of gothic fiction in "The Yellow Wallpaper," including horror, dread, dreams, suspense, and the supernatural. The story takes place on an estate that has fallen into disrepair, three miles from the nearest village. This sense of isolation is frequently used in gothic stories to create a foreboding tone. The narrator is also struck with the "strangeness" and "ghostliness" of the place. E. Suzanne Owens argued in Haunting the House of Fiction that "to a reader familiar with the Gothic, the events of the story suggest possession as much as they do hallucination."

Social Sensitivity

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" was written and published in 1892. The last three decades of the nineteenth century comprised a period of growth, development, and expansion for the United States. Following the Civil War, which ended in 1865, the United States entered the era of Reconstruction, which lasted until 1877. There were many social and cultural changes during this time. Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) expounded his theory of evolution, and further incited controversy over women's roles and issues. His theory of evolution flouted conventional wisdom, contending that women were actually more hardy and therefore more necessary than males because they were able to preserve the species. Because women were mothers, they were vital to survival. Darwin's theory was used to promote both sides of what came to be known as the "Woman Question." Some scientists argued that because women were physiologically robust, they were capable of being both mothers and professionals. Others contended that Darwin's theory proved that motherhood was necessary to women and that it should retain a supreme priority in a woman's life.

Throughout much of the 1800s, the common-law doctrine of femme convert was prevalent in the United States. Under this law, wives were the property of their husbands and had no direct legal control over their earnings, children, or belongings. Some state laws prohibited women from going into business without their husband's consent, and some dictated that a husband could decide where the family would live. Other state laws dictated that adultery was not considered sufficient grounds for divorce if committed by a man, but it was if committed by the wife. Women also could not vote; they were not allowed to do so until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted. In 1875, in Minor v. Happensett, the Supreme Court ruled that states could withhold the right to vote from women as they did from criminals and the mentally insane. The rise of women's consciousness regarding such oppression was influenced by their participation in the abolitionist movement prior to and during the Civil War. In 1869, the first organizations devoted to women's rights were founded. By 1890, such organizations claimed a total of 500,000 members. While there were more women than men in high school by 1890, higher education was not an option for most women, and the only professions open to them were nursing and elementary education.

As a leading feminist and social activist during the late nineteenth century, Gilman argued that women's secondary status in society, and especially their economic dependence on men, was not the result of biological inferiority but rather of culturally enforced behavior. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," which was, in part, a reaction to the oppression of women prevalent during this time, Gilman emphasized these beliefs. In 1926, she stated, regarding her work in general, "One girl reads this, and takes fire! Her life is changed. She becomes a power—a mover of others—I write for her."

Compare and Contrast

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1892: Women cannot vote for public officials or hold public office. Occupations other than teaching, nursing, low-level factory labor, or domestic service are closed to them, and a college education is rare.

Today: Women have achieved a great deal toward true equality with men. Virtually all occupations are now open to women. Many issues remain, however, including equal pay.

1890s: A rash of so called "hysteria" cases occur during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Medical professionals define the malady in terms of femininity and female sexuality, claiming that women are prone to hysteria because of their emotionality and delicate constitutions.

Today: Hysteria has long been considered an invalid diagnosis of mental illness. Post-partum depression is recognized as a common condition and can be treated in a variety of ways, often with medication.

1890s: Along with Gilman, Kate Chopin, Louisa May Alcott, and Sarah Orne Jewett are some of the few women writers who obtain success and popularity by publishing their stories in women's magazines.

Today: Many women writers are being rediscovered and reevaluated, such as Gilman, and have been added to the literary cannon

Media Adaptations

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A short film adaptation of "The Yellow Wallpaper'' was produced in 1977 by Marie Ashton and is available on videotape through Women Make Movies.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" was adapted as a television film, produced by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) for its series ''Masterpiece Theatre'' in 1989. It was adapted by Maggie Wadey and directed by John Clive.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" appeared as an audio, book in 1997. Read by Win Phillips, it was produced by Durkin Hayes.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources
Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar, "Infection in the Sentence: The Woman Writer and the Anxiety of Authorship," in The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, Yale University Press, 1979, pp. 45-92.

Hedges, Elaine R., An afterword to The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Feminist Press, 1973, pp. 37-63

Howells, William Dean, "A Reminiscent Introduction," in The Great Modern American Stories: An Anthology, Bom and Livenght, 1920, pp. vii-xiv.

Owens, E. Suzanne, "The Ghostly Double behind the Wallpaper in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper'," in Haunting the House of Fiction: Feminist Perspectives on Ghost Stories by American Women, University of Tennessee Press, 1991, pp. 64-79.

Further Reading
Golden, Catherine, "'Overwriting' the Rest Cure: Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Literary Escape from S. Weir Mitchell's Fictionalization of Women," in Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Joanne B. Karpinski, G. K. Hall, 1992, pp 144-58.
Golden examines the relationships between Mitchell's rest cure, Gilman's fiction and nineteenth-century women.

Hedges, Elaine R., "Out at Last: 'The Yellow Wallpaper' after Two Decades of Feminist Criticism,'' in Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Joanne B Karpinski, G. K. Hall, 1992, pp. 222-33.
Hedges provides an overview of feminist criticism of "The Yellow Wallpaper" since the story's rediscovery in the 1970s.

Jacobus, Mary, "An Unnecessary Maze of Sign-Readings," in Reading Woman-Essays in Feminist Criticism, Columbia University Press, 1986, pp. 229-48.
Jacobus discusses the validity of Freudian and feminist readings of the story.

Karpinski, Joanne B., An introduction to Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Joanne B Karpinski, G K. Hall & Co., 1992, pp. 1-16.
Karpinski discusses Gilman's life and work and provides a brief introduction to the articles included in the volume.

Lane, Ann J., To Herland and Beyond, Penguin, 1991,413 p.
This biography of Gilman provides detailed information about the author's life as well as her writings.

Shumaker, Conrad, '"Too Terribly Good to Be Printed' Charlotte Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper,"' in American Literature, Vol 57, no. 4,1985, pp. 588-99.
Shumaker presents a reading of ''The Yellow Wallpaper'' in the context of the treatment of women in the nineteenth century.

Shumaker, Conrad, "Realism, Reform, and the Audience-Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Unreadable Wallpaper," in Arizona Quarterly, Vol 47, no. 1, spring, 1991, pp. 81- 93.
Discussion of the elements of realism and reform in "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Bibliography

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Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. One of the premier critical works on nineteenth century women writers. Includes a discussion of The Yellow Wallpaper linking the pattern in the wallpaper to patriarchal text patterns that women writers had to escape.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper.” Forerunner 4 (1913): 271. A one-page article in which Gilman explains that her main reason for writing The Yellow Wallpaper was to save other women from fates similar to her own under the rest cure.

Golden, Catherine. The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on “The Yellow Wallpaper.” New York: Feminist Press, 1992. This indispensable compilation includes the text of The Yellow Wallpaper with the original illustrations, useful biographical and background information, well-selected critical essays, and a solid introduction.

Kolodny, Annette. “A Map for Rereading: Or, Gender and the Interpretation of Literary Texts.” New Literary History 11, no. 3 (1980): 451-467. In this article, Kolodny argues that Gilman’s contemporaries did not understand the implications of The Yellow Wallpaper because they did not have the context to understand her point.

Meyering, Sheryl L., ed. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Woman and Her Work. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989. An important collection of critical essays on Gilman and her works, including one by Linda Wagner-Martin focusing on The Yellow Wallpaper.

For Further Reference

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Bak, John S. "Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 31 (Winter 1994): 39-48. Bak explores the evolution of criticism on "The Yellow Wallpaper," noting the change in emphasis from the narrator's mental "destruction" in her confining bedroom to liberation from her domineering husband.

Crewe, Jonathan. "Queering 'The Yellow Wallpaper?': Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Politics of Form." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 14 (Fall 1995): 273-94. Crewe discusses the symbolism of the wallpaper in Gilman's story as well as commenting on other major themes.

Dock, Julie Bates. '"But One Expects That': Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and the Shifting Light of Scholarship." PMLA 111 (January 1996): 52-66. Dock explores textual differences in various versions of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and how they reflect the feminist interpretations of the story.

Heller, Scott. "How a Writer Became a Feminist Legend." The Chronicle of Higher Education 42 (January 19, 1996): A10. Heller details Gilman's rise to celebrity, including deluded attributions to her by overzealous feminists and her own fueling of the fire.

Johnson, Greg. "Gilman's Gothic Allegory: Rage and Redemption in The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 26 (Fall 1989): 521-30. Johnson discusses "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a Gothic tale, focusing on the rage and regression in the story.

"Overview: 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." In Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them, Volume 2: Civil Wars to Frontier Societies (1800-1880s). Edited by Joyce Moss and George Wilson. Detroit: Gale, 1997. An overview of Gilman's best-known work.

Pudaloff, Ross J. "Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Overview." In Reference Guide to American Literature. Third Edition. Edited by Jim Kamp. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. Pudaloff focuses on Gilman's recurring themes of redemption and salvation.

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Critical Essays