The Yellow Wallpaper
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
1892

A piece of fiction, The Yellow Wallpaper is also an important sociological text and a major contribution to the development of feminism. Based upon her own experiences, Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes her story as a series of journal entries. Confined to her room by a doctor-husband who has diagnosed her as hysterical, a woman cut off from work and social activity, forbidden even to read, descends into madness as the “cure” imposed upon her is only exacerbates her feelings of powerlessness. The exact nature of her initial illness, if indeed it is that, is never clear – there are allusions to a recent child, which may imply post-partum depression, but also the the distinct possibility that the “illness” was no more than emotional and psychological damage resulting from domestic isolation and patriarchal control. A reflection on mental health, a reflection on gender relations, a reflection on the infantilization of women by the medical profession – The Yellow Wallpaper is all these as well just a damn fine story.

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