Read The Yellow Wallpaper; The Wallpaper Replies by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Free Online
Book Title: The Yellow Wallpaper; The Wallpaper Replies|
The author of the book: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Edition: Slough Press
Date of issue: May 1994
ISBN 13: 9780941720885
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 2.88 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.6
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman used her personal bout with postpartum depression to create a powerful fictional but undeniably feminist narrative. By choosing to have her character slowly descend into madness while her physician husband fails to meet most of her emotional needs, Gilman recognizes her protagonist is the isolated, creeping woman she identified in her hideous bedroom wallpaper. The result is a scathing condemnation of the paternalistic principles that removed he character's voice and power to influence her own recovery.
Her husband John is dismissive, referring to her as "little girl" and refusing to contemplate her own desires for an intellectual and creative outlet as "flights of fancy". John’s solicitous “care” shows that he believes in women’s innate inferiority leaves them, childlike, in a state of infantile dependence.
Gilman makes John the window through which readers can view the negative images of women in her society. In Gilman’s lifetime, women’s right to become full citizens and to vote were the topics debated in the public and private spheres. Women, it was argued, were innately inferior because of biological realities associated with reproduction. In other words, having ovaries meant women were emotionally and intellectually unstable. Hence the "rest cure" in the book, which Gilman experienced herself and was highly critical of at the time. Deprived of any meaningful activity as well as a right to her own opinion about her emotional well-being (John has isolated her in a house she doesn't like and in a room with wallpaper that she abhors) , the narrator becomes delusional and obsessive about a woman trapped in her bedroom wallpaper.
Gilman's narrator escapes her prison of condescension with a full descent into madness - literally crawling over her husband in the process, thereby ending her role as a passive observer rather than a full participant within the role of marriage and as a woman.
In real life, Gilman escaped the traditional bonds that limited her by divorcing her husband, who later married her best friend and raised her child. She endured tremendous criticism for the decision, but again, her experience is a powerful testament to the lack of options a female in the early 20th century possessed to end an unhealthy situation.
I've added this book to my "Back-to-School Challenge" shelf because any literature with a feminist leaning was missing in my own high school education. I was lucky I was raised by a strong, independent woman who was a mother, but who worked outside the home. There were no stereotypical gender roles in my home - my parents' marriage was a partnership. But it would have been a broadening experience to have been exposed to this type of literature at an earlier point in my life. Feminist theory is one thing, but this essay, taken in partnership with knowledge of Gilman's personal history - which I learned in university - forms a powerful narrative whose strength lies in the author's own reality.
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Read information about the authorCharlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent American sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform. She was a utopian feminist during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women, and she served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. Her best remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper", which she wrote after a severe bout of post-partum depression.
She was the daughter of Frederic B. Perkins.
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