Have you seen the Yellow Sign?

A fellow reader of a literature-related email list posted a link to a short story, written in 1899 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, titled “The Yellow Wallpaper”.  Remarkably, not only has its text been put online as part of a literature course at the College of Staten Island, but a link is given to an explanation by the author of why she wrote it.  And that is very important; if you read through, I think you’ll see why.

I was so struck by the story that I thought I would link it here:  The Yellow Wallpaper.

Thank you, Dr. Catherine Lavender!  We’ll probably never communicate, much less meet, but you’re having an unexpected impact on me all the same.

In addition to being a fascinating psychological exploration, the story touches subtly on feminist concerns.  Not through blatant lecturing, but from presenting a story that we internalize as an experience.  I’ve always considered that to be the best and most effective approach, especially on a subject that’s all too often associated with vitrolic moralizing, so it’s certainly notable for its understatement.

As a side note, I’d like to point out that this is an eerily appropriate text for the Cthulhu Mythos, although it’s before Lovecraft’s time and I doubt very much that Gilman ever encountered him or his works.  But although it’s lacking the ornate verbiage and purple prose of a traditional Lovecraftian tale, or even the stylistic tendencies of a ghost story, it’s thematically appropriate.  And quite disturbing if approached in the right way.  Some even accused Gilman of trying to drive people mad with it – wildly exaggerated criticism, but not entirely without a point.

Take a look.

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One Response to “Have you seen the Yellow Sign?”

  1. I was assigned it in high school and agree it is Lovecraftian. I had never read the explanation before, I was just told it was feminist.

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