#27 “The Wolf and the Yellow Wallpaper”

From Rachelle in New York

If you have never read the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I suggest you check it out. Here’s the gist of what happens:

In the story a young woman (the narrator) and her husband move into an old country estate so that the wife can spend some time at ease away from the apparent pressures and stress of society. She describes in various journal entries how she has been diagnosed with a troubling nervous condition and how her husband, a doctor, absolutely insists that she must remain as sedentary as possible: she may soak up as much fresh air as she wishes, but she must not exert herself in any way, even by writing her thoughts in a diary.

The irony, of course, is that this misguided behavioral prescription certainly does more harm than good. With absolutely nothing to do, the woman becomes stir crazy and lets her imagination and “fancy” run wild. In particular she is enamored and disgusted by a pattern of yellow wallpaper that decorates the couple’s bedroom. She tries to persuade her husband to cover it, but he insists that with her condition, she should not allow the paper to “get the better of her.” Over time, though, the woman’s morbid fascination with wallpaper only grows; she believes that she sees it move and change. She says, “In the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so – I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.” She says she watches it always, for the figure hidden in it or behind it is one of a woman.

As time goes on, the troubled wife becomes more and more obsessed and believes that the woman behind the paper is creeping in and out and that she (the wife and narrator) is the only one who can know about this mysterious figure. By the end of the story this strange belief has deteriorated her mind to the point where she believes that she and the woman are the same entity, and she tears the wallpaper down in long strips so as not to be trapped back inside it. The story concludes with the woman’s husband fainting at the sight of her deranged condition, and she creepily slinks over his body towards the wall.

When I examine this paper, I am reminded of this story. For the pattern of the paper that serves as the background of this illustration seems to fit very nearly with the description of the yellow patterned wallpaper described in this story…. but for the life of me, I can’t seem to understand why no one else can see the beautiful black wolf drawn squarely in the center. I can see it. It’s right there. Right in the middle…

You can see it….Can’t you?

Can’t you…..?


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