Goodreads: “The Yellow Wallpaper”
A fist person narrative from the perspective of a woman who goes with her husband to convalesce in a house with a room with hideous yellow wallpaper.
Working as a writing tutor with college students, I have read dozens of essays about “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and after reading various takes and interpretations of the work (and getting a decent, if secondhand idea of the plot!), I decided to just sit down and the whole thing for myself. Having done so, I can see why the story is a popular assignment for lower level literature classes. The feminist themes give students something “obvious” to write about, but there is just enough nuance and ambiguity about what exactly is going on with the narrator’s mental state that it leaves room for students to make an argument.
Basically, it’s a tight story that explores the narrator’s apparent descent into madness as she spends her days looking at a hideous patterned yellow wallpaper in a bedroom in a house she and her husband have briefly rented to help her improve her health. The main question of the story is whether the narrator is truly suffering from some nervous condition, as her doctor husband has diagnosed, or whether she is mostly fine but then becomes ill after her husband dismisses her own opinions about her health—her requests to be more active, see more of her friends, and move to a room where she doesn’t have to look at the horrid wallpaper. (Read: A story of men not listening to women and thinking they know more about the bodies and mental health than the women do.)
The theme could be more subtle, but the story is short, and it’s interesting enough to warrant a read and some discussion.