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The Yellow Wallpaper
Transcript of The Yellow Wallpaper
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
What Happens (Plot)
A married couple moves to a colonial mansion in the summer in order for the woman, Jane, to recuperate from postpartum depression. Her husband, John, a well-known physician, along with her sister-in-law Jennie look after her treatment process. At the time, the treatment was isolation and no physical activity. Mary took excellent care of the baby for her during the process. Jane copes by secretly writing in her diary in which she describes her growing fascination with the yellow wallpaper. Her growing insanity is evident when she begins to imagine a woman caged in the yellow wallpaper. As her obsession with the wallpaper grows, she progressively gets worse until one day, she completely loses her mind. John is extremely shocked when he discovers Jane's insanity that he faints.
Actions that Suggest Something is Wrong
The Subordination of Women in Marriage
The Importance of Self-Expression
The "Resting Cure" Does Not Always Work
The Yellow Wallpaper
symbolizes the domestic life in which women are trapped in.
The ugliness of the wallpaper emphasizes how nightmarish and horrible the domestic life is.
The woman, who is creeping and trying to escape represents the narrator's own desire to escape from her own prison.
The pattern of the wallpaper represents bars that cage the woman.
The wallpaper itself represents the home.
It mainly takes place in an upstairs bedroom that used to be a nursery with barred windows because the husband was afraid his wife would escape.
In the story, it is summertime.
Instead of her room being upstairs, she wants to be in one downstairs that opens to the garden, but her husband will not allow that.
She is the housekeeper for the couple and is closely watching over Jane while John is away at work.
He is a well-known physician who prescribes his wife's, Jane, treatment. He does everything he can to help Jane but does not fully understand her condition.
In the story, she just recently had a baby and knows something is wrong with her because she does not feel very maternal towards her baby. This can now be diagnosed as postpartum depression. Jane obediently follows her treatment prescribed by her husband, with the exception of keeping a secret diary.
All the characters are revealed
Because the story is told through Jane's diary, she is presented through what she writes, while her husband and sister-in-law are presented through her opinions and words.
At first, she keeps saying she isn't feeling well, but her husband denies that there is anything serious.
Symptoms: sensitive emotions (gets angry and sad easily), tiredness, and crying for no reason.
She absolutely hates the yellow wallpaper at first, but eventually she begins to meticulously observe it and trace the patterns for hours because she isn't allowed to do anything.
She begins to get obsessive over the wallpaper and hallucinate about a woman trapped in it.
A notable characteristic of the woman is that she is always creeping.
Stereotypical male because he acts dominant.
Static and flat: methodical and practical, but still acts very caring towards his wife.
Round and Dynamic: her illness makes her unpredictable
The wallpaper was patterned, old, and peeling. The color was dull and in some places either faded or orange.
Static and flat: Observant and the opposite of Jane because she actually enjoys housework.
Actions that Suggests Jane Becomes Completely Insane
She is territorial with the wallpaper. She doesn't let anyone touch it by locking herself in the room.
In frustration that her bed will not move, she bites a part of it off at one corner.
Jane looses it completely when she decides to rip of all of the wallpaper to release the woman hidden behind it.
Jane prepares herself with rope for if the woman tries to get away.
She ponders jumping out of the window out of desperation but there are bars on the window.
She creeps around the room and ties herself up with rope as if she was the woman behind the wallpaper.
It is written in first person, but she is an unreliable narrator.
Epistolary style because the story is told through Jane's secret diary.
Gothic - spooky, scary
"We have had a lot of rain... the smell is here" - Olfactory imagery: odor after the rain sets a gloomy mood.
Metaphor: "John took me in his arms and called me his little goose" This is very demeaning towards women, but he meant it as a term of endearment.
"I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane..." - very unexpected climax of the story. This is shocking situational irony.
Not a lot of figurative language because the author is losing her mind.
Stream of consciousness
Birth & Early Years
The story takes place in the late 19th century. This was a time when there was a lot of revolutionary thoughts and reform, especially dealing with women's rights.
Challenges in Life
The Relevance of the Author's Background
to the Short Story
She took care of the baby because Jane was unable to because of her treatment and condition
Her parents were Mary Westcott Perkins & Frederic Beecher Perkins.
She only had one brother, whose name was Thomas Adie Perkins. He was 14 months older than Charlotte.
Because her mother was often unable to support the family, the Perkins often lived in the presence of their paternal family like aunts, uncles, or grandparents.
Gilman married artist Charles Walter Stetson in 1884.
A year later in 1885, Gilman had a daughter with Stetson whom she named Katherine. Katherine had 2 children.
Charlotte divorced her first husband. In 1900, she remarried. Her new husband was her first cousin George Houghton Gilman.
Gilman learned to sew before the age of 5.
Gilman attended 7 different public schools.
Society to Encourage Studies at Home.
She studied until 15 years of age.
She impressed her teachers with her natural intelligence and creativity, yet they were soon to be disappointed by her bad grades. Her favorite subject was "natural philosophy".
At age 18 she entered the Rhode Island School of Design with financial aid from her father.
She became a tutor, and a painter, while also encouraging people to expand their creativity.
Her father left the family when she was little.
Her mother was not very affectionate.
Gilman suffered postpartum depression.
She divorced her first husband (the artist Charles Stetson) after about 10 years of marriage.
Her husband died from a cerebral hemorrhage.
She had inoperable breast cancer. A year later she committed suicide.
Gilman committed suicide on August 17, 1935 in Pasadena California.
She decided to take an overdose of chloroform. In her autobiography it is noted that she "chose chloroform over cancer". She wanted a quick and quiet death, instead of the lengthy death cancer would have given her.
Gilman was cremated.
She was born on July 3, 1860 in Hartford Connecticut.
Her father abandoned the family.
Her childhood was spent in an impoverished state and she moved very often.
Gilman spent most of her childhood with her paternal aunts.
She desperately wanted to feel loved.
Her mother taught her at home. Gilman loved to read.
Most of her youth was spent in Providence, Rhode Island.
2 Pictures on Page 15
Gilman wrote the "Yellow Wallpaper" because she suffered from post-partum depression.
Gilman was diagnosed by Weir Mitchell with the following instructions "[l]ive as domestic a life as possible. Have your child with you all the time...Lie down after each meal. Have but two hours 'intellectual life a day. And never touch a pen, brush or pencil as long as you live."
At first Gilman tried to follow these instructions, but seeing that her depression only worsened, she decided to divorce her husband.
During the Summer of 1888, after spending time in Bristol, Rhode Island with her daughter, the depression began to lift. She then sold her property in Connecticut to a friend and moved to Pasadena California.
The Yellow Wallpaper was thus written.
Silas Weir Mitchell
Gilman wrote, "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked." ("Why I Wrote")
Why She Wrote
In her autobiography she wrote, "the real purpose of the story was to reach Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, and convince him of the error of his ways" (The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman 88)
Where did the idea for “The Yellow Wallpaper”
After dealing with depression for several years, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was sent to see a highly regarded physician specializing in nervous disorders, Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell. ("Why I Wrote")
Gilman wrote, “This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure”. “I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over.”("Why I Wrote")
Silas Weir Mitchell
He became well known for his "rest cure" treatment. This model spread quickly through the medical community.
Was a physician treating mental illnesses during the Civil War
At the end of the war he became a specialist in neurology
In 1877 he published "Fat and Blood" detailing his theories on the causes and treatments for nervous disorders
("Silas Weir Mitchell")
What was the Weir
Mitchell Rest Cure?
Mitchell's treatment consisted of 5 components:
Extreme Bed Rest
("Fat and Blood"
She was a great reformer that succeeded to exceed in a man made world.
Her first volume of poetry was "In This Our World" published in 1893. This is what brought her great recognition.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" (1892 & 1899)
"The Man-Made World; or, Our Andocentric Culture" (1911)
"The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography" (1935)
"Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1860-1935." Charlotte Perkins Gilman. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/allam/18661913/lit/gilman.htm>.
"Charlotte Perkins Gilman." Charlotte Perkins Gilman. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. <http://www2.webster.edu/~woolflm/gilman2.html>.
Gilman, Charlotte P. Why I Wrote He Yellow Wallpaper. N.p.: Forerunner, 1913. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/literatureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/WhyIWroteYellowWallPaper.pdf>.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 1991. Print.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. [New York]: Feminist, 1973. Print.
"Postpartum Depression: Not the Baby Blues." YouTube. YouTube, 09 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <
"The Yellow Wallpaper - Animated." YouTube. YouTube, 09 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <
Man vs. Himself:
Losing her mind
Man vs. Man:
Suppression from her husband
Man vs. Society:
Suppression from the treatment
Questions About the Author
1. How did Gilman die?
2. In which state was she born in?
3. Who did Gilman marry after she divorced her first husband?
4. What type of inoperable cancer did Gilman have?
5. How many children did she have?