How Are You, Crazy Lady?

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The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman

Literary Criticism-- EL312

I've read this story all through out my career as a Seton Hill student as well as a Godwin High school senior. After reading the story so many times all I can think about is what must have gone through Gilman's mind. Looks like the "genetic criticism" will work well here. Gilman had based her whole story on that dark part of her life. The interesting part is that this depressin had influenced her writing. Gilman had live a terrible life until and decided to end it.

Now if I hadn't known anything about Gilman, would I have known that her work was based on her life. I pretty much had a feeling about Gilman by just reading The Yellow Wallpaper without reading her biography. But as Dr. Jerz had said last class, what the author writes does not mean the author is living that life. Nevertheless, without the "genetic criticism" we might not have known about this very strong connection between Gilman and the story

3 Comments

The close connection between Gilman's character and her own experiences is one of the reasons teachers like using this story. But unless you believe that Charlotte Perkins Gilman actually went mad, and further that she was mad at the time she wrote the story, then you have to accept that the protagonist of her story has an experience that differs from the author's experience.

And once you admit that, you begin to see the danger of assuming that a creative work is a representation of something that the author actually experienced. (Was Flannery O'Connor murdered by a prison escapee? Did she escape from jail and kill a family? Of course not.)

Hirsh points out the importance of using objective criticism to weigh the relative value of potential interpretations, in order to find one that is most likely what the author intended.

Gilman admits to periods of mental instability, but, by her own account, she defeated these demons and only commited suicide as a statement about an individual's right to decide upon their own death if that person has been declared terminal (who isn't terminal?)

Regarding your theory that if you did not know about Gilman's past, you still would have thought she was writing from self experience, I completely agree.

I have to ask--even though you have drawn connections between Gilman's life and the short story, why do you think the author is writing from experience? Is it because of the POV and tense the story is written in? Is it because you commonly associate the author with the narrator?

I'm really curious to know why folks make these associations. While, yes, we know what we know about Gilman, what if we didn't? Would you still think that she must have had mental issues?