"Wallpaper," "Wall Paper," or "Wall-Paper": Uncertainty in Gilman's Story

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From Richard Feldstein’s “Reader, Text, and Ambiguous Referentiality in ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper’” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism, page 405:


“Until recently, critics have not distinguished between the protagonist who stops writing in her journal and the narrator who produces that journal, which becomes our narrative, an effective example of the counter discourse with political implications for feminists.  If the protagonist and the narrator are one character, the narrator’s journal poses a contradiction to the theory that the protagonist stopped writing when she regressed from the linguistic to the imaginary level of articulation."


I think this article brings up a lot of interesting questions, especially ones concerning the above quote.  As Feldstein points out in his essay, there is much confusion for the reader, and perhaps even the author, as to whether or not there is separation between the narrator and the protagonist.  I also thought it was really interesting that Feldstein compared his reading/the meaning of the text to the text itself, including the ambiguity of the narrator, protagonist and author, of protagonist and woman in the wall, and of the spelling of the word “wallpaper” or “wall paper” or “wall-paper.”  This article created a lot of questions for me that I think might be interesting to pursue in the research paper for this class.


See what others have to say about Feldstein's essay.


Greta Carroll said:

Erica, Feldstein did bring up a lot of interesting points. He really did a good job showing how the ambiguity of the actual structure and form of the story (the shifts in spelling of wallpaper, the ambiguity between narrator/protagonist/author) relate to a reading of the text. While I don’t agree with his reading that the narrator/protagonist/author caused her own problems and was purposely acting out to both get revenge on her husband and to exercise the little power she had, I can still find value in his article in the textural ambiguities he highlights.

Bethany Merryman said:

This article really opened my eye up to the inconsistencies too. When I read "The Yellow Wallpaper," I never thought twice about the narrator being the writer. After reading this article, I feel very challenged in my own interpretation (not that that is a bad thing) and found his points inspiring.

What was your opinion about the narrator being the writer? I am going to talk about these ideas and hopefully ask the class for their opinions on these topics. I look forward to hearing the classes responses.

Jenna said:

I also found the idea of the split between the protagonist and narrator interesting. Since the narrator is unreliable could we not look at the story from the point that maybe she was not really going crazy and just pretended to write from the perspective of a crazy person? As if she was authoring a fictional tale and just created it as entertainment for herself.

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