Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper - Literary Essay Example for Free

Published: 2022-02-17
Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper - Literary Essay Example for Free
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Literature Feminism The Yellow Wallpaper
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1278 words
11 min read

"Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper" is the story of a woman who suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown and was advised against working. The woman, however, disobeyed these orders and went back to work. It was during this period that she wrote this particular story. The story has been criticized by many as one that ought not to be written as it portrays insanity. However, its primary purpose was not driving people crazy, but saving them from being driven crazy and finding peace while been productive.

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Understanding "The Yellow Wallpaper".

I am exploring the story and the characters within it.

An insight into how misunderstanding and poor diagnosis almost drove the main character crazy.

Interpreting the story and exploring the hidden meaning, i.e., understanding why the writer wrote the story and the background behind it.

Lessons learned from "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper".

The Yellow Wallpaper

To understand "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper" one must take a step back and focus on "The Yellow Wallpaper". The story has gone down in history as one of the best feminist stories ever written cementing Perkins title as a pillar of American feminism (Gilman). This is because Perkins lived during a time when women had very little rights, and there was a backward attitude towards physical and mental health of women during this age. During the same period, she went through a series of nervous breakdowns that led her to write this story characterized as a haunting psychological story.

The story is about a woman whose husband has rented a mansion for his family for the summer after the birth of their daughter (Gilman 647). The husband believed that this is a good environment for treating his wife who had been suffering from depression. The character, who is unnamed, is forbidden from working and encouraged to eat, rest, and have plenty of air as the primary diagnosis for her nervous breakdowns. During that period, a diagnosis like this one was common for most women who were going through depression like the character. The story looks at how the young woman descends into madness even though she has a supportive husband who, unfortunately, misunderstands her.

The writer, almost at the brink of madness, turns to her journals where she devotes most of her time describing the wallpaper present in her nursery and her opinion on her husband's decision who had forbidden her from taking part in any form of writing or working. She describes it as yellow, smelly, and having a breakneck pattern with missing patches. Also, it left a yellow smear on the skin and clothing in case one got into contact with it. She also describes the time she spent locked away in that room still referring to the wallpaper indicating that the wallpaper appeared to mutate especially in the presence of moonlight. Also because the character had nothing else to focus on in the room, the designs and patterns of the wallpaper became more and more intriguing to her.

Soon she began to see a figure in the wallpaper in the shape of a woman who appears to be creeping on all fours behind the wallpaper's pattern. The interpretation of what this meant was only understood by the character who went ahead to strip the remaining section of the wallpaper to free the woman trapped in the wall. As expected, the husband and the husband's sister are shocked and worried, and there is tension between the two.

The story eventually hits its climax on the last day in the house when the woman locks herself in the room to remove the remaining wallpaper. The husband soon arrives at home, but the woman refuses to open the room. Eventually, he gets the key and opens the door only to find her wife circling the walls and creeping inside the room very excited, "I've got out at last... in spite of you and Jane? And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!" (Gilman 656). The statement caused her husband to faint.

Analysis of "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper"

"Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper" provides some insight why Perkins wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper". Her background backs her explanation or the story of the story behind the story. Perkins was a firm believer in human rights, especially for women. She felt that women were trapped in a sphere of their home that prevented them from growing both intellectually and in terms of creativity. This is evident in the initial story where the character sees herself as the women-like figure trapped by the wallpaper. She believed that women needed to be given the platform and the opportunity to grow, make connections, as well as work outside their homes. Also, there was a need to change the attitude towards physical and mental treatment among women.

Her own experiences inspire the overall story. After getting married, Perkins suffered from what can be termed as postpartum depression, a condition that a significant number of women go through after giving birth (Wisner et al. 195). This state is common if the patient is going through a particular form of nervousness of hysteria or in most cases, the patient has a lot going on in her mind. In many traditional cases, women were advised against working, but instead, they were encouraged to stay at home and rest (Welter).

During this particular period, she indicates the following, "This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still-good physique responded so promptly that he concluded there was nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn advice 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." (Gilman).

In her narration, she indicates that she obeyed these directions for close to three months, but it was this almost led her into mental ruin. She eventually stopped listening to her husband and the doctors and consequently began feeling better. These three-months postpartum experience and the trauma that followed led her to write this story. She further indicates that she gave a copy of the story to her physician who never acknowledged it (Gilman).

Nevertheless, she indicates that the story saved her life and helped her regain her mental stability. She further indicates that the little book has saved another woman who was going through something similar and eventually she was able to go back to her normal life. It also helped in changing the attitude on how women needed to be medically treated in society. "Many years later I was told that the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper," (Gilman).


The story helps indicate how women were widely misunderstood in the past by men who thought that they knew what was best for them. It provides insight into the mind of a woman who went through depression and came out successful. Therefore, the story is aimed at helping those that go through the same and hopefully save their sanity or lives.

Work Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Why I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper?." Advances in psychiatric treatment 17.4, 2011 pp. 265-265.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The yellow wallpaper and other writings. Modern Library Classics, 2000.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The yellow wallpaper. Project Gutenberg, 1999.

Welter, Barbara. "The cult of true womanhood: 1820-1860." American Quarterly 18.2, 1966, pp. 151-174.

Wisner, Katherine L., Barbara L. Parry, and Catherine M. Piontek. "Postpartum depression." New England Journal of Medicine 347.3, 2002, pp. 194-199.

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