In The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the reader witnesses the narrator’s gradual slip into insanity the longer she is left alone. Below is a picture of Gilman, the author of the short story.
This story takes up ten pages in our class textbook. On the second page, the narrator tells us, “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition” (Gilman 265). This tells us that in the beginning of the story, she is able to think rationally enough to realize she did not used to treat her husband this way. However, by the end of the novel she has lost almost all of her ability to think rationally. On the last page of the story (274), she tells us,
I don’t like to look out of the windows even– there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.
I wonder if they all came out of that wallpaper as I did? But I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope– you don’t get me out in the road there.
I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!
By this point, the narrator believes she has become the woman she has been seeing in the wallpaper throughout the story. She has lost touch with reality because she has been left alone frequently and has not been able to leave the house.
Artist Julia Callon expressed her interpretation of The Yellow Wallpaper with before and after mini “Houses of Fiction.” Clicking on them will link you to Callon’s website.
It seems the main reason the narrator went insane was that she was prescribed the rest cure. This cure recommended that women stay inside, eat frequently, and rest frequently (Martin 2007). Its intentions were to improve the mental health of women. However, for many women (including Gilman), it did the exact opposite. Gilman herself explained that she wrote this story as a way of critiquing the methods included in the rest cure in Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper. The rest cure is likely for this woman’s loss of touch with reality.
– Michelle Hole