Shadows of Insanity A review of Charlotte Perkins Gillman's 'The Yellow Wall-Paper

Essay by jasmo77University, Bachelor'sA+, November 2002

download word file, 4 pages 3.7

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story The Yellow Wall-paper one sees a first hand battle with nervous anxiety, depression, and a woman's fight for sanity as she adheres to ill advice from her doctor who is also her husband. The story examines a lady, possibly Gilman herself, imprisoned in drab surroundings, no intellectual stimulation outside of short, belittling talks with her husband, and patronizing guidance from her husband and doctor.

One may assume that a person with nervous tension and symptoms of depression would be more suited to an environment where he or she would feel comfortable. Almost immediately she feels uncomfortable and describes the house as "haunted" and she sensed an eerie feeling of the estate. When she mentioned this to John one night before bed, he declared it "was a draught, and shut the window"(657-8). There were mysterious circumstances in the air. Why was the bed bolted down to the floor? Why did the room feel so empty and desolate? One would get the sense Gilman and her husband were imprisoned in a mental asylum instead of vacationing in a relaxing summer cottage.

She goes on to describe the yellow wallpaper, which hideously decorated the wall in her immediate front view. Since she in not allowed any intellectual stimulus, she begins using the wallpaper as a means of reflection, forming delusional ideas of symmetry and a pattern. When describing the wallpaper, at one point Gilman notes, "two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down" (660). This passage would show first signs of mental collapse through hallucinations and slight tendencies toward paranoia. Gilman reflects, "Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better and am more quiet...