Scary Women (Authors) : The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Seeing as people are talking about The Yellow Wallpaper which is my 'Scary Women Authors' square, I thought I might as well add my voice to the discussion.
I've posted about this story before, but it really was the first one I thought about when I saw the 'Scary Women Authors' square. And every time I read it, it creeps me out a little more.
The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman (click link to read it)
“First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper – a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, The Yellow Wall-Paper stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.”
I first read this when I was about 14 years old and getting into all things Gothic, and I loved the creeping sense of menace. But then when I re-read it a couple of years later, I got goosebumps from realizing this short, but powerful story was based on the author’s own experience of how women with post-natal depression were treated.
Gilman had suffered from depression for years, and had been prescribed a rest-cure; she wasn't allowed to pick up a pen, pencil or brush, and had to have a bare minimum of mental stimulation. For a writer this must have been a living hell. After three months, she went against her doctor's advice and started writing again. She wrote The Yellow Wallpaper and sent a copy to her doctor.
She said The Yellow Wallpaper was "not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked".
"It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw – not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper – the smell! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell."