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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Option #5

The Yellow Wallpaper (1899) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of the most successful gothic stories I've read in a while. I read the story from the perspective of the narrator, and tried to sympathize with her and hence, because of that reason I found it quite scary. While many would see her as the perceived threat and the mad, weird, dangerous scary woman, I personally immersed myself into being her. Putting myself in that situation, I was taken aback by the fact that even if I had deep conviction, and knew not only through speculation, but from directly seeing this seemingly abnormal phenomenon, no one believes me! Even though I know that "there is something strange about the house -- I can feel it" [Yellow]
but John thinks that "it is due to this nervous condition" [Yellow] and I'm just seeing things. I think that's one of the most haunting of feelings; when you know you're right despite it being against believable natural phenomenon, but no one believes you. Imagining myself in that situation was what worked really well to produce a sense of fear and desperation. This trope of the mad protagonist is used extensively in horror movies such as Signs ("I see dead people"), Shutter, Ju-On and so on. However, maybe it's not just madness and actually the other characters are being foolish in perceiving it as such. 

In The Yellow Wallpaper, the heroine is definitely antagonized. There is but a single "window that can see the garden" and "The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight", implying that the accommodations for the narrator where she has been forced into are not very pleasant. It is also pretty distressing to find out that she's the one who is suffering as her mental acuity slowly degrades and she starts seeing figures in the wallpaper such as "the woman behind [that] is as plain as
can be". Given the state of the narrator, I would say she's a sure case of a distressed heroine. Throughout the story though, and even after the ending, any reader could easily argue whether she was really mad, or if something supernatural was happening in that room. This guise of foggy information adds to the gothic nature of the story and makes it truly suspenseful.

I would recommend The Yellow Jacket to anyone with a sound heart and an open imagination. Gilman narrates a rather detailed story and paints colorful characters (albeit in dark, gloomy colors) in such a short length. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars rating.  I read through this as a statement against the androcentric medical practices of the 1890s but I thought more details about John's history could've been revealed about John that would've provided this rationale for John's treatment of the narrator. However, I haven't given it a 3 stars rating since revealing such details to an uninhibited extent could've taken the element of mystery out of the story, which is why the story is so captivating in the first place.

Gilman, Charlotte P. “The Yellow Wallpaper” 1889. 1-3. Print. 

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