4 Stars Reviews

Book Review: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A short story that has become a staple of feminist literature, The Yellow Wallpaper consists of journal entries by a young woman who slowly descends into madness. The narrator is taken to a colonial mansion by her physician husband in an attempt to cure her ‘nervous depression’ through rest and relaxation. Sternly advised not to write or take up any pastime, the narrator takes to examining the garish yellow wallpaper in the room she’s staying in, soon becoming convinced that there is a woman trapped behind the florid patterns.

I somehow managed to neglect reading this throughout the entirety of my English Literature degree, despite it being such a classic and having so much to unpack. The description of the things the narrator sees in the wallpaper is haunting, as is her final descent into madness, becoming the woman in the wallpaper herself. The story is an excellent critique of nineteenth-century society’s attitudes towards women’s health, especially mental health, and how treatments often sought to stifle women’s creative expression and reinforce their domestic role. It is short in length but says a lot about women’s oppression at its time of writing.

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Read for the Magical Readathon, Charms exam.

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