A Story Containing Every Critical View

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"If we read "The Yellow Wallpaper" ironically and not simply as a case history of one woman's mental derangement, the narrator's madness becomes questionable, and the question of madness itself, an issue raised as a means of problematizing such a reading" (Feldstein 403).

We have studied this story inside and out and still do not know exactly what causes her mental disorder or "madness." Is it John, is it her past, or is it simply a way to look at a madness and its affects?

Truthfully, as a literary critic, now, I would say that the entire text is ironic. We never fully understand if one thing really means what it was intended to mean. In other words, we are constantly questioning ourselves and trying to find the meaning. In the end, we are left with an empty scene because we do not know what happened to John.

Is the wallpaper similar to the growth of a child? You probably think that is crazy to think, but wait a minute. If the wallpaper is birthed when the narrator enters the home, then we can see the growth of how the wallpaper or the narrator becomes insane. Is it the wallpaper that is the problem or is it the narrator? I would say that it is the narrator because wallpaper is an object with no human qualities. It only has human qualities when a human has a mental disorder or illness.

Do you think that The Yellow Wallpaper is a text that gives you what you want from it? In other words, what you get from it when you read is the final outcome? Or is there more to it?

Click here for the webpage devoted to Feldstein.

5 Comments

I believe that The Yellow Wallpaper is pretty straight forward. It is a story about a woman going crazy because of a number of factors. Whether or not she is going crazy because of herself, her husband, or the wallpaper itself does not really impact the fact that she is Cuckoo for Coco Puffs. She imagines that there are people behind the wallpaper. That sounds pretty nuts to me.

The only reading that I would be able to say does not support some sort of insanity is a paranormal reading. What if the narrator is really seeing things?

Would you agree that she is psychometry?

Angela, I agree with you, I strongly disagree with Feldstein that “the narrator's madness becomes questionable” (403). I really don’t understand how someone can even argue that she doesn’t have a breakdown and isn’t insane. I do also agree with Derek though that there can be many readings of the text. However, I think the interpretations can be about what causes the narrator’s insanity—not whether she is actually insane or not. I think it’s pretty clear she has some problems, and I think it’s a bit extreme to insinuate (as Feldstein does on page 404) that she is “crawling as a means to shock her husband.” I also fault Feldstein because he warns against, an “either-or reductionism” (403), yet at the same time he gives only two choices—either the narrator was driven insane by her husband or any problems she has she causes for herself by trying to “shock” John.

So, would we agree that Feldstein presents opposition to the story? Do you think that he is protecting the narrator's innocence? Or do you think that he is using the narrator as an object to intensify John's knowledge and power?

I really like what Greta comments about Feldstein giving only two choices, even though he advocates against the "either-or reductionalism." I didn't even think of this when I was reading it, because I felt that his ideas were against the grain and not overdone. Even though he only gives two choices for the narrator's actions, I feel that he still makes the valid point that due to the ambiguous language in the story, the reader may interpret the story in multiple ways.

So this goes along with what Derek says, that there are multiple ways to read the text due to the unclear textuality. Because the story can be interpreted in so many different ways, I would have to agree and say that the reader has the ability to be what we "want" it to be. However, there are certainly wrong answers as well.

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on April 11, 2009 6:53 PM.

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