The Yellow WallpaperPosted by Jacy Cohen on September 26, 2022 at 8:16 am
A few things to keep in mind while reading this week:
• This short story was published in 1892
• Pay close attention to descriptions and details of the setting
• Character development (how are the main character’s actions, thoughts, etc. changing as the story goes on)
• It’s ok for us to admit that in the past, we may not have known how to best handle mental health, without being woke feminists 😆Jordan Sparks replied 7 months ago 5 Members · 13 Replies
Jordan SparksAdministratorSeptember 26, 2022 at 8:36 am
Ohhhh I’m excited! Thank you for the reading guide!
Jenna HutchesMemberSeptember 27, 2022 at 10:41 am
Looking forward to this! I am sitting down to start reading right now!
Jordan SparksAdministratorSeptember 28, 2022 at 1:13 am
Ok just finished it! Shew! That was a wild ride. Definitely couldn’t stop reading it. Such an interesting writing style with the first person narration you could see the unfolding of her condition. She says that she’s recently had a baby which makes me think this was some sort of postpartum depression/hysteria situation. It really is a blessing to live in a time where there are better treatments and more understanding available. The whole story centers around the theory of the “rest cure” being considered the best treatment of the time for this. Sadly, the author Charlotte Gilman wrote the short story because she dealt with this after her baby was born and was given treatment instruction for the rest cure until she met with a female dr. who gave other recommendations that better helped. This is considered “feminist lit” because of the male power themes of the husband. Which honestly, reading it through without knowing any of this, I didn’t get that. The husband seemed pretty caring to me 😆 Gave her tonics and took her to a mansion for the summer to rest and recover, had a nanny to help with the baby. Maybe I missed some abusive theme but seemed like he was honestly trying to help her. Knowing that mental health is STILL a very difficult area of medicine to treat and get results, even with all the medical advances that have happened since this book was written in 1892, I think we can agree that the patriarchy wasn’t to blame for misdiagnosis or wrong treatment plans back then. I also found myself thinking about how work and purpose are good for humans. That laying in bed all the time is terrible for your mental state. Ok medical stuff is always such a puzzle for me so I was also like hmmm I wonder if her thyroid is off, I wonder if theres some kind of crazy mold in that wallpaper making her like this. 🤣 I know, I know, it’s fiction! Overall, super thought provoking read!
Jacy CohenMemberSeptember 28, 2022 at 1:41 am
I agree Jordan! I was thinking the whole time how good work is for us. To me, her husband seemed to have some great ideas on how to help her get better, he just didn’t help her implement them well. I didn’t see any reason for feminist outrage either. What did you think of the details of the setting? The whole place had walls and a locked gate, bars on her windows, “rings” on the wall, bed nailed to the floor, floor torn up. Do you think her husband took her to a mansion for a restful getaway or do you think she was taken to a private mental health facility?
Jordan SparksAdministratorSeptember 28, 2022 at 7:16 am
Ohhh! Lol I guess it was! I wasn’t sure about all those details in her room. I just assumed her husband did that to her room for her I guess. Now that you say that though I bet that’s what it was. And I thought the floor torn up, bed gnawed, groove in the wall, I thought they were all from her but she didn’t realize she had done it. But you’re reading makes more sense I think.
Jacy CohenMemberSeptember 28, 2022 at 8:02 am
I think you’re right about the groove in the wall being from her because the maid was complaining about the yellow on her clothes. It was so sad to me in the beginning/middle because she was aware that she wanted to get better. I could feel her guilt and longing to be healthy enough to be with her baby and out of that place. What do you think about the husband being gone days and most nights? Suspicious or totally innocent because he needs to keep working?
KC ClaudMemberSeptember 29, 2022 at 10:33 am
Wow- so just read it and y’all weren’t kidding! This was definitely wild- I know it was back in the 1880 but still how insulting/belittling it must have been to keep being told that nothings really wrong. At the same time I don’t think it’s all that unusual for it’s time. They played such mind games back then. I love the book, the secret garden which this short story reminds me of.
I hate that though that relationship’s were so one-sided. It’s as if he married someone and didn’t actually know her. She had so much more to give. I understand why it’s considered a “feminist” book- but why is it that you can’t be both? An intelligent domestic woman- I do think the husband loved her but I don’t think he actually knew her. He doesn’t actually listen to her, he doesn’t spend any time with her- she was just expected to keep up a good reputation as the physician’s housewife. I don’t think it’s suspicious that he acted that way because back then if you had something to be embarrassed about you swept it under the rug. Others might have thought it suspicious but it would have been so wrong to confront it. I’m so grateful to be married to my best friend. Im not always right but thank goodness I can talk to him about anything, discuss sensitive topics and work out challenging concepts etc.
… so how she ended it… what do you think about that? Can’t trap me back in the wallpaper … dun dun dun
Jenna HutchesMemberSeptember 29, 2022 at 8:38 pm
Alright, I finished the book yesterday but needed to take some time to think about this one! First, what a bizarre book haha after I finished I was describing it to my husband and he just looked at me like “what?”. When you say the story and everything out loud it makes little sense if you didn’t read it. The start to the finish you can feel the declining in her mental state. I agree with Jordan that I would possibly relate this to something postpartum since she recently had a baby. I understand rest to a point especially after having a baby but even I go a little “stir crazy” postpartum when I want to get back to normal day to day but my body isn’t quite ready for that yet.
I didn’t think at the beginning the husband was neglecting or not accommodating her but as the read goes on he belittles her a little bit. Saying “as your physician” or “I am the doctor”. I think a lot of her decline was the late of support from him or him listening to her. She was afraid to inconvenience him with her condition and scared to talk to him about it. I couldn’t imagine having a husband that didn’t take what I said into account.
I will never understand mental illness because I personally have not struggled with it but I have a very close friend who does and she always says having her husband and her close friends to talk to about it really helps get it out of her head. She always says things to me and then pauses and goes “man that sounds crazy” but I always have to help her along the road of the thought and why she is having it. So with that being said, being alone in your own thoughts and not having support has to be so exhausting for her mind, especially with a mental illness. There are several mornings a week my friend calls or just wants to come over because she needs to get the thought out of her head. It was probably good she starting writing because that can be a form of that but she was even scared to be writing.
I don’t think I can quite talk about all things wallpaper yet haha I am still trying to sort all that out. The ending for me was hard to follow so I am going to read that again today. What did you think about the ending? Why did he faint? What exactly did the scene look like when he walked in for him to have that response?
Jacy CohenMemberSeptember 29, 2022 at 11:12 pm
So Jenna, the ending. In the end she has ripped most of the wallpaper off of the walls and is manically crawling around the floor with her shoulder pressed into the wall (the groove). Seeing as how they were set to leave that day, I think the husband was so overwhelmed with how quickly she had declined, he couldn’t handle it. I completely agree with you about his behavior throughout the story. At first he seemed helpful, even though he wouldn’t quite listen to her. But near the end he was very patronizing, calling her little girl and talking down to her. If we think about it, we can be guilty of this as well. How do we speak to a very elderly family member who needs help with everything? How do we speak to people who have dementia? I actually heard an interview with a man about his new book “My Father’s Brain” on this very topic of how we care for those in decline. Interesting to think about. I also want to read the book “The Woman They Could Not Silence”. A true story about a woman who was put in a mental institution because her husband was angry with her. But I’m worried it will be too feministy.
Jenna HutchesMemberOctober 3, 2022 at 2:43 am
Thank you for setting that scene up for me. I didn’t have time to re-read it so this helps me picture it in my head a bit more. Didn’t she have a rope tied around her too? I bet it was something really hard to see. Yes, most of my grandparents have passed now but two of them suffered from dementia and it is an impossible situation because you love them so much but they aren’t the person you once knew which is probably how the husband felt. They say the best thing to do with people especially with mental decline is to keep engaging their brain in simple activities! So maybe being in that room alone a lot of the time was a big factor in her quick decline.
Jaime LingleMemberOctober 2, 2022 at 7:13 am
What a fun story! I enjoyed how the woman’s mind unraveled as the story unfolded. I agree about the issue of her having too much “rest” time/free time. As people, we are made to work, and when we don’t get our regular tasks accomplished, it isn’t good for us. I understand, to a point, that her husband wanted her to rest, but clearly, she was living in her head more and more.
This also reminds me of how so many people function nowadays due to our luxury. What I mean by luxury is that we have running water, heated or cooled to our preference. Our homes are climate-controlled. We have refrigerators with food, and grocery stores have TONS of food options. We have personal vehicles to get us around. With no legitimate struggle for survival (mind you, I know we all have difficulties to get through, but nothing like day-to-day survival), our culture moves into a self-focused state in which we have to search for things to overcome…hence all the groups and causes that people are involved in.
As for the setting, the author does a good job of contrasting the faded yellow wallpaper with the fresh greenery of outside. This shows us how stagnate it was in the bedroom. I think we can also see that the woman wanted to get out of the room, and with the bars and the nailed-down bed, the room truly did feel like a jail.
I am torn between this house being a 3-month rest versus a mental home. If this was truly a place for her to rest and recover, the room in which she stayed encouraged her mental deterioration. She was doing the opposite of what she should have been doing (getting outside, CARING FOR HER CHILD, helping with household tasks). Instead, she was left to embrace her vivid imagination, which her husband had chastised her about having. I could see this being a mental home that caused more problems than good. In either case, the woman’s mental illness progressed with the time spent in that room.
I was a bit surprised that she didn’t try to hang herself. I gasped when she revealed that she had a rope for tying up the wallpaper woman. I wonder if her husband fainted because she had the rope around her neck and there was evidence that she had attempted suicide.
Jacy CohenMemberOctober 2, 2022 at 9:20 am
Jaime, I found it really interesting how nonchalantly she mentioned harming herself. She thought it would be a good idea to throw herself out the window, if there hadn’t been bars on them. But she figured people would get the wrong idea 😆 As if people would overreact and think she was trying to harm herself 😆 I also find it interesting that we never learn her name.
Jordan SparksAdministratorOctober 3, 2022 at 7:39 am
Well thoroughly enjoyed reading all these responses! How fun! I love reading together with you all! On to something more cheery this week! Let’s dive deep into thinking about Christmas! 🎄🎄