Genre: Classics, Short Story
Date Published: 1892
Buy: Amazon // Book Depository // Project Gutenberg (Free)
First published in 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper” 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 Wallpaper” 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.
*** Just a quick note to say that this book could be potentially triggering for anyone suffering a mental illness. I managed to get through it, but it was very hard at times. ***
I decided I wanted to try and read more classic literature (the only classics I’ve read is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass and half of Dracula and whilst doing a ton of Google searching and YouTube watching to see where an absolute beginner like myself should start (I never read any classics in school) I stumbled across this book randomly. I don’t know what it was, but something about it just spoke to me. It wasn’t mentioned on any of the lists or videos I watched, but I knew I had to read it. The fact that it was a short read helped too, because I have no attention span.
Going into this I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew was what I read on the Amazon blurb – a psychological horror (two words that immediately piqued my interest) about a woman descending into madness. I was definitely not expecting to feel the intense unease and pain that I did whilst reading this.
Honestly, my heart broke more and more with every line I read. I am no literature expert so I may have missed a lot of the symbolism, but what I didn’t miss was a woman who was mentally ill being dismissed and neglected to the point where she lost all hope and sanity. Maybe it’s because I also suffer from a variety of mental illnesses so I connected a lot to her. It also broke my heart because over a hundred years later I feel these issues are still extremely relevant? Every day people with mental illnesses get ignored and not taken seriously until it’s too late. Just like the woman in this book they are misdiagnosed and mistreated. Whilst people are slowly becoming more accepting and things are obviously better now than they were in the 1800’s, there’s still such a stigma surrounding it.
I don’t get scared by books, but The Yellow Wall-Paper terrified me because it was so real. I am so scared that this could possibly be my future. I felt the hopelessness this woman felt. I can still feel it now. This book will leave a huge imprint on my life and I will never be able to forget it. In a strange way, reading this has made me feel less alone and has opened my mind and really made me think about mental illness and feminism of the past, and intrigued and inspired me to read more classics. That said, a part of me wishes I hadn’t read it because I’m just so sad for her, for myself and for and every other person out there who is suffering or has suffered from a mental illness and who gets told “oh it’s not a big deal, you’re fine”.
I’m not sure how to end this review. I know there’s nothing technical in here or any kind of in depth analysing, but my reviews aren’t about that. It may not be the usual format, but I tend to focus on how I feel and this story made me feel so many things I don’t know how to put it into words that make sense.
I read an introduction from Charlotte explaining what this story was about and she said that physicians actually questioned her own sanity, said this would drive people mad or completely dismissed her and I felt so angry for her and every other women whose had to deal with these injustices. She went on to explain that a physician told her to just lock herself away to cure her nervous breakdowns and she felt herself “so near the borderline of utter mental ruin“. She ends the introduction by saying: “It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked“. And I just wish I could thank Charlotte for writing about something so important and real, because whilst I felt the hopelessness and despair I also felt a renewed sense of inspiration and motivation to keep fighting my own illnesses and to not give up.