a short story by charlotte perkins gilman
about a woman who goes insane
staring at wallpaper
. well, there's a bit more to it than that. it's really sort of a critique of psychiatric practices at the time (late 1800s). the protagonist
is undergoing "treatment" for some sort of "melancholia
," which largely consists of doing away with anything creative
and going back to being a dutiful
instead of getting better, the woman ends up hallucinating wildly and believing her husband
, and even the wallpaper in her room are all out to get her. she becomes terrified of being "trapped" in the wallpaper, which seems sort of an allegory
for being trapped by society
in a stereotypically feminine
role. women weren't supposed to think, and inevitably if they felt even the teensiest bit of emotional imbalance
it was automatically blamed on mind-stimulating activity-- rather than on their frustration with their less-than-stellar
ranking in the world.
gilman wrote this story because she went through a similar experience; in 1887, suffering from neurasthenia
, she was told to "live as domestic
a life as far as possible," to "have but two hours' intellectual life
a day," and "never to touch pen, brush, or pencil
again as long as i lived." for three months she gave it a go, "and came so near the borderline
of utter mental ruin that I could see over." when she decided to ignore the doctor
's advice, she bounced back like a badass yo-yo
i am an ostrich.
the yellow wallpaper is meant as a warning based on personal experience
. "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy," she explained in a 1913 issue of The Forerunner.
this is one of the creepiest things i've ever read, and i highly recommend it. the subsequent film is also excellent and captures the mood quite well; i've never been so freaked out by the sight of a woman crawling on the ground.