November 5, 2004

Watching the paper

Because I have read "The Yellow Wallpaper" once before, I wasn't that excited this time through. I mean papers, speeches, tests...blah, blah, blah.

This time, I listened to the soundtrack for perhaps a different interpretation. Though I usually hate various media interpretations on a work, I liked this one. The female narrator in the story played the part in a literal manner: a sufferer of something like Linda's understanding of post-partum depression. However, as Lori mentions the narrator could be trying to convince everyone that she is sick--a hypochrondriac view.

And that is what I must remind myself--this is an interpretation. The sparse details of actual fact in "The Yellow Wallpaper" give the work an air of ambiguity. I question if the room is even in an "ancestral hall," but rather a mental ward. As John S. Bak, quoted here, "explains that the mansion incorporates 'external instruments of restraint suggestive of a prison or a mental ward' (41)". With the narrator's baby, for example, the reader does not even have an indiction if he is real; instead, only passing comments, such as It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!
And yet I CANNOT be with him, it makes me so nervous" (3), of which the reader should not rely upon (the narrator's possible mental illness) for concrete facts are given.

In this, I must disagree with Michael's assertion that "[John is] undeserving of marriage, much less any relationship with women." John is, as Sichok states earlier in his blog, "we are presented with a male status norm, concurrent with the era." Yes, John is being a jerk in this story--from the interpretation of the narrator, a perhaps unreliable narrator, heightening everything to make her point. Was this Gilman's statement? Absolutely. Her life story depicts a direct association with the narrator.

Kudos to Mike for picking up the feminist view of "The Yellow Wallpaper." I would just take the narrator's statements about her surroundings with a grain of salt.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at November 5, 2004 9:40 PM


It was interesting to have a debate in class whether or not John is being mean to his wife. It didn't think that way. It was just how everyone in society thought. Back then, all men were alike in thinking how they are superior. Nowadays, women will not tolerate it. John is just being considerate and wants his wife to fully recover, so that she can take care of her baby, do housework, and other feminine things. I know it sounds bad for women, but that's how things were back then. It was considered acceptable in the late 1800's. So, I was not offended in Gilman's story. Just wanted to share my opinion.

-Nabila :)

Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 5, 2004 5:06 PM

I agree with you Nabila. I thought the same thing. Michael's view is a present day critique of John's behavior, which is okay, but he may want to realize that there are certain things a reader cannot infer.

Posted by: Amanda at November 5, 2004 5:12 PM

Re-reading my old entry on "The Yellow Wallpaper," I remember thinking that all the narrator did was skip around the topic--the fact that there is something seriously wrong with her life. Whether it was an illness--mental or otherwise--or merely oppression in the household, the narrator was blatently unhappy in her surroundings.

About the husband: consider the date that this story was written--the author probably intended the actions of the characters to provoke different feelings for readers than those that people of the time period in the story would have experienced. Was the point to prove the oppression of women during that time in history? Or is this speculation at its finest?

Posted by: Karissa at November 5, 2004 10:45 PM

Eh, who knows what it was for, the question is what does it do? If the story enspires women to stand up and rebel for freedom then kudos to the story. If she was fighting the women's rights movement, well then the story was a failure and she should rewrite it. I hate literary critics who say what the story can mean, before people have a chance to read it. I actually read a funny thing about critics living in "hell", called High Spirits by Robertson Davies. haha. To not write and novel but analyise others...please...

Posted by: Stephan Puff at November 7, 2004 2:33 PM

The new criticism champion: Stephan Puff.

Posted by: Amanda at November 8, 2004 2:16 PM

Leave me out of the Criticism Spectrum. Ew, what a bunch of useless rats. That's right, I went there.

Posted by: Stephan Puff at November 8, 2004 4:39 PM

But you are doing a new criticism, Puff. You are being inspired by the work alone--without any outside resources.

Posted by: Amanda at November 9, 2004 5:36 PM

Oh my... I just wondered what the time period had to say. :(
Truce or I'll shoot!! (lol)

Posted by: Karissa at November 9, 2004 7:48 PM

NEVER!!! :-)

Posted by: Amanda at November 10, 2004 9:51 AM


I know that everyone seems to be aganist John for what he is doing to his wife, but on the flip side, you could see that Jane has brought all the depression to herself. John might be partly cause of her illness, but not completely. He is trying to make her feel better and wants her to fully recover, eventhough it's to do women tasks, like cooking, cleaning, etc. I have to admit, his intentions are good, but just not expressed in the right way. I guess that's how men were back then, so I don't really feel negative towards John.

-Nabila :)

Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 16, 2004 11:17 AM


Yes, I did feel that John was wrong for silencing Jane all the time. He didn't even let Jane speak her mind. It was like her opinions did not matter. Some parts of the story, John did not act like a good husband, and other times, John just treated her as a patient and took care of her.

-Nabila :)

Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 16, 2004 7:54 PM

I think the story was very boring and pointless. I have a test tommorow and i have no idea what it's talking about and u people havent helped very much.

Posted by: jamal at November 30, 2004 12:45 PM
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