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review 2014-10-25 07:33
BOOK REVIEW | The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins
The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman,Elaine Hedges

To summarize this book in one sentence: The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman's descent into the harrowing grasp of Post Partum Depression while her husband and sister-in-law ignore her growing issues out of ignorance, blind righteousness and fear.

This story starts out seemingly harmless enough. A woman and her husband move to the countryside so that she can recover from a mysterious ailment.  Her husband seems to be careful, even overprotective - "He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction."- but with good intentions.  The narrator wants to stay in the downstairs bedroom, but her husband insists on her staying in the ex-nursey with the horrendous yellow wallpaper.

As the story progresses, she becomes more and more fascinated, and frightened, by the wallpaper: "There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will." As she continues her narration, the reader quickly discovers that there is something, very, very wrong.  However, it is only the reader who notices this.  All those around her seem to casually overlook her issues and they continue to grow and consume her.

Being trapped inside the head of a woman who is spiraling out of control is a terrifying experience.  Her obsession with the wallpaper grows, she begins to see in it a woman who "wanted to get out", she becomes an insomniac, falls into paranoia and yet nobody does anything about it.  The frustration I felt towards everyone around her, everyone who was seeing the effects of her PPD firsthand was something unlike I've ever felt while reading.

Towards the end, she conflates herself with the woman she sees in the wallpaper, signaling her final break:

"I've got out at least," said I, "in spite of you and Jane.  And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"

I was honestly surprised by how chilling this was.  I knew, going into it, that it was about PPD and I knew that it was a disturbing read, but I didn't expect it to affect me as strongly as it did.  The honest truth is that PPD is still a very ignored problem among new and older mothers.  We still live in a world where a woman suffering from PPD is forced to have more and more children and never get any help - which ultimately leads to her being jailed for trying to drown them, but her husband getting off with a simple slap on the wrist for ignoring her mental issues.  The Yellow Wallpaper while written over a hundred years ago, holds a message that is still very relevant and important today.

Highly recommended.  82 accessible pages and maybe an hour of your time that will be well spent.

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