The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Classic #4)

The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman  (Classic #4)

Shelved: Classic (short story)
Published: 1892 by The New England Magazine
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #4
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my fourth post for the 2015 Classics Challenge!  It’s not too late to join me (and 170+ other people) in reading one classic per month.

‘The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.’

Written with barely controlled fury after she was confined to her room for ‘nerves’ and forbidden to write, Gilman’s pioneering feminist horror story scandalized nineteenth-century readers with its portrayal of a woman who loses her mind because she has literally nothing to do.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I discovered it while browsing Penguin’s Little Black Classics. I’ve always been interested in mental illness and discussions about mental illness – including taking two ‘Madness and Society’ courses at university – and so it seemed like a great one to try out. I bought it alongside The Old Nurse’s Story.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I wanted to read an ‘old’ classic in April and because I’ve been quite a slow reader this year compared to normal, I also wanted something short and swift – it was the perfect choice!

WHAT Makes It A Classic
I hadn’t heard of The Yellow Wall-Paper before picking it up, so I wasn’t aware it was a classic. I can see now that it was ahead of its time; it was seen as ‘horrifying’ and ‘chilling’ when it was first published. I think it has become a classic because it tackles something incredibly serious, but it a way that’s powerful, vivid and concise, and still resonates with people today – we continue to discuss the stigmatisation of people with mental illness over 120 years later.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
The Yellow Wall-Paper is a story, like many classics, that becomes more enjoyable the more you think about it. I finished it quickly and I wasn’t sure what to think. Did I enjoy it? Did I get it? But I did a little research on Charlotte Perkins Gilman and why it was written. I discovered that it was based on personal experience and that Charlotte was a feminist writer who, at the time, had a radical view on gender roles. I thought about what the story represented and in doing so, I got so much more out of it. I realised that I was guilty of taking the female narrator at face value, when in fact she’s unreliable. The Yellow Wall-Paper has a different meaning once you already know how it ends and once you read it for the second time, and so it can be looked at as both a Gothic horror story and a feminist stance on women, mental illness and gender inequality. I also enjoyed reading the other two short stories included in this edition: The Rocking-Chair and Old Water.

WILL It Stay A Classic
Many people have told me they had the opportunity to study The Yellow-Wall Paper. It’s been a really popular one on Twitter and Goodreads, with many people telling me what they thought of it when they first read it. As long as academia continues to turn to it as a fascinating snapshot into how both women and mental illness were regarded in the late nineteenth century, it won’t be forgotten.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who want to read a classic short story, especially a feminist classic. People who are interested in mental health and the issues surrounding the treatment and stigmatisation of people with mental illness. People who want to try out one of the Little Black Classics!

Have you signed up to the 2015 Classics Challenge?

20 thoughts on “The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Classic #4)

  1. Great post! I read The Yellow Wallpaper a couple of years ago, for a course on Twentieth Century Women’s Fiction. I really enjoyed it, like you said it is a really interesting piece of writing 🙂

  2. I read this for a Gothic horror class and I am so glad my instructor introduced me to it. I thought it was a little brilliant and a lot fascinating. I definitely agree that it becomes more fun when you.think about it more~

  3. This sounds like an incredibly wonderful classic and it really interests me! I may pick it up!

  4. Great review. I also enjoyed this book for many of the reasons you listed above

  5. I read this for school a few years ago and really liked it too! It was short but also quite the story. It left me with such an impression after reading it – I can only imagine what its impact must have been all those years ago!

  6. I loved The Yellow Wall-Paper when we discussed it in my English class junior year. True, I was creeped out by it but it was still a great story. Our teacher also made us watch an animated film adapting the events in the story and that made the class discussions even more creepier. Haha!

    So glad you loved this short story and I look forward to seeing your thoughts on more classics. 🙂

  7. I wrote my undergrad senior thesis on this work; it’s amazing how much you can read into such a short work. Loved your review!


  8. I love the way you format your posts for this challenge. I just might have to join you. 🙂

  9. […] The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman ★★★★ • Goodreads • Buy […]

  10. dreamingthroughliterature

    Studying English Literature as a minor when I was in college, I read this short story a total of 4 times for 4 different classes. It is definitely a popular one. After studying it so much, I have no choice but to adore it (haha). Great review!

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