The author of The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper
had a severe bout of post-partum depression after the birth of her only child, a daughter. We don’t know whether wallpaper entered into the symptomology but her famous story has a creepy power that leaves you unsure whether there may not be an uncanny element at work. Certainly there was spiritual oppression of a well-meaning kind, the fog of psychology that came down between doctors and the mentally ill and in general between all those with enlightened recipes and their patients.
Gilman strikes early and often:
John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
John is a physician, and PERHAPS—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—PERHAPS that is one reason I do not get well faster.
You see he does not believe I am sick!
And what can one do?
If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?
Double bind spotters will notice “You see he does not believe I am sick!”. The point is that he does believe that she is sick and is keeping a close watch on her in case that in her distress she might injure herself. Thus there are bars on the windows and a gate on the stairs. It might well be the first Mrs. Rochester under a more benign regime. Even the house is a baronial type JacoBethan mansion of some sort that they are renting while there own house is being done up, refitted. The Gothic even medico-Gothic always lays these stumbling block symbols in our path.
The room that she is in or confined to or confined tout court may have been the nursery or schoolroom of yore. But why is this mansion so cheap to rent, is it that it is haunted? The yellow wallpaper writhes as wallpaper does. Who has not experienced this? But I digress. This story builds to a climax and as Oscar Wilde remarked: Either the wallpaper goes or I do.
An excellent story in the narrow but select canon of woman-question horror. She was also well known as a speaker and a progressive thinker.Gillman A paper of hers on the negro question demonstrates the blind spots of that cadre of high minded racists and eugenicists.