September 19, 2003

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

The following is my fifth response paper for ENGL 325. We weren't told what to write about this time so I picked "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" asserts that there is something odd about the house that she and her husband have rented for the summer. The only strange thing about it is the woman that spends most of her time cooped up in the nursery staring at the old wallpaper. In fact, she is completely obsessed with it. She tries at length to describe what it is about it that offends her so. I have difficulty in picturing anything beyond just the color of the paper. Nothing else is consistent. It changes according to the lighting in the room, or so the narrator indicates.

I determined that as the narrator descends deeper into madness how she perceives things, particularly the wallpaper, constantly changes. She wasn't describing the wallpaper itself, but what it was that she saw in it and by that I don't mean a pattern conceived of by the designer. The paper was most likely uncomplicated; perhaps it was just a plain shade of yellow showing some normal signs of age, such as fading from all the direct sunlight that it receives. There could have been so little going on with this wallpaper that the narrator projected onto it in order to cope with that.

The narrator is a writer; specifically a storyteller. She is compelled to tell the story of the wallpaper and in doing so, she reveals her own. There are bars on all of the windows in the nursery. At night the wallpaper resembles bars over a figure she is certain is female. Near the end of the story the narrator tells us that the woman manages to escape from her prison-pattern during the day. The reason she can say this is because she has seen her from each of her windows. In reality, the narrator only sees her reflection.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 09:16 PM