June 11, 2008

The Yellow Wallpaper

I started thinking about this short story today, The Yellow Wallpaper by one Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I read it first some months ago, just kinda randomly browsing through this big Bedford literature book I have (Christmas gift, and it has kept on giving indeed). I read the little intro on it about it being an important piece of feminist literature, but other than that I just kinda read it blindly.

The story, if you've never heard of it, is about a woman (the narrator, we can assume is Charlotte herself) who is basically going through what we think of now as postpartum depression in the most intense way, aka MADNESS. She is "ill", or so says her husband John, also a physician--to get away from stress, the two vacation in this big colonial house for the summer. The narrator wants to write and actually go about and do things, but her husband sort of usurps power in a way and ultimately confines her to a room upstairs; his intention is more or less "bed rest" but its more like imprisonment.

The room the narrator is confined in has this hideous (implied hideous) yellow wallpaper that pretty much drives her mad. She obsesses with the wallpaper and begins seeing a "figure" trying to escape from it; on the last day of the vacation in the summer home, the narrator locks herself in the room and begins tearing the wallpaper down to free the "figure" (whom she thinks is another woman trapped behind the wallpaper). Her husband finally breaks in and sees the narrator creeping alongside the wall, he faints, and she simply steps over him with every lap.

This story has stuck with me ever since I read it those months ago. I can't get over how disturbing the imagery of this woman crawling alongside this wallpaper is; I can't get over how total and swift her decent into madness is. And how she manages to journal it all down (the story is first person, like an epistolary thing almost) in the process. It's just...eerie. I've kinda wanted to talk about the book for a while, but frankly at first I wasn't a big fan. I didn't really understand, I guess, all I was thinking was, "Wow, bitch is crazy."

And, you know, bitch really was crazy but she didn't MAKE herself that way. I kind of choose not to see it as a "feminist" piece of literature, but I don't exactly take it at face value either. I just read it and try to mull over the symbolism of the wallpaper and how it's linked to this woman's madness and it works out better for me, that way. I just mull over the story some days in my head and it just gets scarier and scarier, even though it wasn't intended to be anything "horror" or at least I don't think.

If I may, it's kinda like the shower scene in Psycho where, upon a second or even a third viewing, you realize that all the gore and blood you imagined isn't there...but that doesn't mean you didn't see it in your mind and that doesn't make it any less real, right?

Sigh. I figured I'd talk about that for a minute, since it was gnawing on my mind so.

Powered by ScribeFire.

0 had something to add:

Post a Comment

Please share some knowledge. Or amuse me at least :O