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.