The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is a poem designed to “save people from being driven crazy” according to Charlotte Gilman.

I remember reading this poem in my grade 10 English class. My teacher at the time loved unsettling literature and picked out this poem specifically to watch her students react to it. Before we began to read it she told the class to pay attention to the creeping woman, and not just the wallpaper. She told us that according to one interpretation of the poem, the narrator (I don’t believe we are given her name) commits suicide at the end of the poem. The narrator claims she was “securely fastened [by her]/ well-hidden rope” (Gilman) and that when her husband John finally gets into their bedroom he faints “right across [her] path by the wall/ so that [she] had to creep over him every time!” (Gilman). This could be a description on her body swinging over his after hanging herself. The narrator’s husband says his wife had a “slightly hysterical tendency” (Gilman) and disregards her condition until it is too late. The yellow stains found on both the narrators clothing and her husbands was probably the narrator herself getting them dirty as she was creeping around the room.

I still feel strange every time I read this poem.

Charlotte Gilman claimed that she herself almost went mad and that a specialist in nervous diseases had almost pushed her over the edge. Gilman decided to write this poem in order to help others suffering from a similar disease.

After reading this poem I feel as though I probably shouldn’t spend so much time in my room (my walls are yellow too).

One thought on “The Yellow Wallpaper

  1. I hadn’t heard the interpretation that perhaps the narrator commits suicide at the end…that’s interesting. I read it somewhat differently, that she somehow becomes the woman that she had formerly “seen” in the wallpaper, by the end–she identifies with her, and so she starts creeping like the woman did. But of course, the woman in the wallpaper is a construct of the narrator’s mind to begin with. So it’s as if the narrator is splitting off into another person–multiple personality? This thought came from my discussion with one of the students in our seminar today after tutorial!

    I’m going to go back and re-read it with the suicide idea in mind, though…that didn’t cross my mind at all before.

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