Is "The Yellow Wallpaper" literary or commercial?

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Discerning whether Charlotte Perkins Gilman's groundbreaking short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a commercial or literary piece is an interesting question. When Gilman wrote the story and had it published in the January 1892 edition of New England Magazine, she was separated from her husband and writing verse and prose for a variety of publications from her home in California. At that time, New England Magazine was a literary journal, not a general interest magazine, and so it seems that "The Yellow Wallpaper" was a literary piece before it was anthologized in 1899.

Gilman's career as a writer and public intellectual point to a woman whose aspirations were advanced for the times in which she lived. She left her husband in the East, moved to California on her own, and sent their daughter to live with him and his new wife. While of course Gilman needed to support herself, her written works were not positioned for commercial sales. Gilman wrote and lectured for much of her career, working for reform movements geared toward improving the lives of women.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is unsparing in its presentation of a woman suffering deeply not only from postpartum depression, but from the infantilizing behavior of her husband and brother who insist that she remain at home in a converted nursery for a "rest cure." The story was controversial, and Gilman understood that it would not have wide commercial appeal.

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