The University of Yellow Wallpaper

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My inital reaction to this piece of hypertext literature was a feeling of dread. That was due to the fact that I knew it was a hypertext story which meant it would be long and confusing. It would have been more confusing to me too had it not been for the title and the references to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper".

The Title of the piece did not ring a bell for me right away until I entered the first page of the website where the link stood to enter the story. It is a picture of a small, yellow square with the title written in different forms. It is suppose to resemble the wallpaper the woman in the story sees. It eventually drives her crazy but she is there already because she is mentally sick. I read "The Yellow Wallpaper" my senior year in high school in an AP English class. The story is mind boggling. You are never truly sure how sick the woman is, where she is, and how she got there. The readers just know she hates the wallpaper in her room; same as the character in this story. So I am thinking of this story as a modern play off of the original "Yellow Wallpaper." C.E White, the author, alludes to this when she states, " It pleases me to ponder this message, I know, it pleases me to think I am communicating with her, this unknown woman..."

One recurring theme that I noticed throughout the story, besides the references to "The Yellow Wallpaper", was the characters mentioning of her appearance and body. She often mentioned looking through looking glasses and mirrors to see her image or to see nothing there at all. She is obviously very confused about who she is. She also makes references to her childhood and when you click on the first couple of links there is an image of a child from the waist up. Sometimes she may think she is still a child. For example, she mentions how she sucks her thumb and how the soliders come up to her and pinch her cheeks. However she says "sucking your thumb which makes me believe she sees herself as two people; the girl she was in childhood and the woman she is now. Many times she uses the word "us" to convince readers that she is in some way, living two lives.

As a reader you get a inside glimpse of her childhood when she talks about how her mother left her at the market and how she was too weak to take care of her children because she did not eat. I got the feeling her mother was a good person though and tried to take care of her children. The woman does not want to leave her mother. She does not want to be sent away. The University of Yellow Wallpaper is most likely some sort of psychiatric ward where she could recover. It seems like her childhood is what caused her to be so disoriented and confused.

The author uses violent imagery in some of the descriptions.

"I could feel someone watching me, someone soften onto my legs, groping for my heart and sucking. I promptly threw myself out of bed, opening the door, and precipitated myself towards class, but the rose bushes were waiting and my dress was no protection against the lash of their thorns that slashed me to bits, bleeding, my naked feet flayed by stones, scratched by thistles, stung by nettles and slipping all the time and time before on unknown objects, I crossed the threshold and entered the building..." 

One reason for these images may be because she had a violent childhood with her mother (which may also explain the distorted image of the infant picture earlier on in the text).

Another interesting motif that was used throughout the story was her goal to get to "class" where she would "take notes for the final time". I wasn't sure of what was meant by the latter statement, however I think the references apply to the title of the story. She could be or could have been at some sort of school or university and she is just imagining she is still there or remembering times when she was there. These are when the violent terms also come up which the author probably put their on purpose. The woman may have wanted to go to school but it is a painful road there. Just as in this story and "The Yellow Wallpaper," the character is not allowed to right but it helps her to calm her night tremors. Writing is her release. The only thing distracting her is the wallpaper. In "The Yellow Wallpaper", the woman sees another woman (herself) in the paper, trying to get out. And in this paper the woman sees herself in two different images as well.

Going back to my initial reaction after having to "close read" and analyize the story, I still found this story hard to connect with. I literally had to write out notes on the story so I could remember certain things without having to find my way back to a page. The only thing I felt I had to go off of was my knowledge of the "Yellow Wallpaper" short story. However, I see these hypertext stories as a way of almost being able to express yourself, as an author or writer, in a different way. It is not the conventional page 1 to page 20 story. It is more like many thoughts within one big idea. -

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2 Comments

Jed Fetterman said:

Anne,
"Sucking your thumb" stuck out in my mind too. It was a really good line from the story, but I could not make an adequate explanation for it. Your ideas that the story describes a girl with personal image issues makes a lot more sense than my idea of an allegorical life of a website and the user who searchers for it, that I know others have echoed. thanks for giving me a different way of looking at things.

Tom Jed said:

I have a website about girls wallpaper

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