Ray's Introduction to Literature, Fall, 1998 Kate's
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Last Updated 10/22, 1998

Image Adapted from "The Open Window" by Pierre Bonnard
The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)
Leading Questions; Relevant Links
Online Discussion-- Ray's Class; Kate's Class

illustration of the original version of "Yellow Wallpaper"
This story, in part, presents a nineteenth century medical treatment of what may now be referred to as a mother's postpartum
depression, a depression caused by an hormonal imbalance after the birth of a child.  The medical treatment at the time that
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote this story was similar to the "rest cure" that the narrator's husband, a doctor, prescribed for
her.  Besides raising questions about those medical practices, this story questions the position and role of women in a male
dominated society.
Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
  1. How is the female narrator different from her husband?  What kind of relationship do they have as husband and wife?  Most probably, the wife is suffering from postpartum depression.  How does her physician-husband (John) try to cure her?  Does the wife agree with the treatment?

  3. The following is the treatment the author Gilman received from her doctor when she suffered from depression.  Is it similar to that of the narrator's husband?
    1.   "Live as domestic a life as possible, Have your child with you all the time.  Lie down an hour after each meal.  Have but two hours intellectual life a day.  And never touch pen, brush or pencil as long as you live."  (from Why I Wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper"?)
  4.   The story is highly symbolic, and its development is in the changes in the woman's attitudes toward the other people and in her views about the yellow wallpaper.  Can you describe this process?  For instance, how does the woman feel about John at each stage (e.g. respectful, guilty, distanced, etc.)?  And how does she feels about the wallpaper--like? dislike? and what does it represent for her?  (Read carefully the changes in the descriptions of the wallpaper)

  6.  Considering the unequal relationship between the husband and the wife, what can the wallpaper, the creeping woman and the narrator's madness be symbolic of?

  8. The movie presents ONE interpretation of the short story.  How does the movie version differ from the story?  Please

  9.      give details.

Relevant Links  (* is for beginners.)
Image Source: Charlotte Perkins Gilman from The Woman Hall of Fame