Book Review: The Yellow Wallpaper

*Spoiler Alert: This review contains spoilers.*

Available online for free.

It’s a short story of only 6000 words but I had to stop many times in my reading of it. I had to come back to it when I felt less angry at the injustice the narrator is facing. At the point in the story where her husband, John remarks:

“Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug, “she shall be as sick as she pleases!” I had to stop and take a deep calm breath. Each line is meant to disturb and attack. Each line has a meaning beyond its obvious meaning.

The nameless narrator is surrounded by people she trusts, her husband John and her sister in law, Jeanie are kind and caring. They want her to rest, recline, not see her baby, not write and not give in to her fancies. So controlling is their care, that it becomes more suffocating than the disconcerting yellow wallpaper in her room.

With nothing to occupy her mind, she tries to unravel the mystery of its pattern. She sees a woman like herself confined within the paper, trying to escape but the restrictive, confusing pattern is too much for her. In the end, the wallpaper is a way out for the narrator. She frees herself and many like her by tearing it apart and shattering the bars of containment.

Here the bars hold back the freedom of choice, free will and thought. She tries to conform to patriarchy’s expectations of her, to act normal, hide her true feelings but she knows that she must creep out, and free others like her to creep out as well. But they must still ‘creep’ about or they might be caught and thrown right back into the pattern designed to keep them confined.

A powerful, feministic piece of literature, this story is not a happy read but a very relevant one. It is open to a lot of interpretations and relatability across different forms of subjugation and suppression across race, gender and class.

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