Friday, 30 January 2015

Review of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

This is probably the most boring-looking quotation I've ever headed one of my reviews with - I hope! BUT, in terms of this short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and published in 1892, it is darkly sinister. If you're a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, or gothic texts that deal with horror in subtle ways (think less Frankenstein and more 'The Raven'), then this one is a great quick read that will play on your mind for days.

The narrator, who is never truly named in the text, and her husband John move to a new house after their wedding. Despite her protestations to sleep in another room, he insists that they sleep in the upstairs room with the yellow wallpaper. The narrator is ill and thus spends a great deal of time in the room. She notices that the legs of the bed seem to have been gnawed at, and it looks as though frantic attempts have been made to rip the yellow wallpaper off. Soon she notices that within the pattern of the wallpaper is a woman, but why is she there?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was deeply engaged in social and political questions concerning the place of women at the time of writing this novel. The narrator exposes some deeply troubling social tensions and issues for an American woman of the late 1800s. Her illness is typically feminine, and keeps her in a room behind barred windows. *SPOILER ALERT* Just as the woman in the wall-paper is trapped by bars in the pattern, so is the narrator - as the narrator begins to become more and more obsessed with unravelling (so to speak) the wallpaper, so her and the woman in the wallpaper became more and more enmeshed. Eventually the reader is left asking who is who, and ultimately does it matter? These women have both been imprisoned by the societal constructs surrounding them, and neither can truly escape. 

Have you read it? What did you think?


  1. I have not read this, but it sounds super creepy. I love stories that make you unsure of what exactly is happening, and I'm pretty impressed that a book about women "breaking" free from their social chains was published in 1892!

    1. I would highly recommend it! If you have a kindle you can get it for free :) . I was shocked too! It really is quite an important text

      Steph x