February 3, 2007

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

Ah, the old literary favorite, "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Like most in the class, I've read this before and have even blogged on it. It's funny to see how my interpretations of the story change from then to now.

I'm not going to go into depth about how crazy the woman was in the story, how awful her husband treated her, and how the room aided her progression into madness. The story is pretty cut-and-dry, considering some other pieces of literature. (Then again, I still hold that she kills herself in the end. We had a nice arguement about this in my American Lit class last year.) Instead, let's take a look at the author (since this is the theme for the week).

I can't pick just one quote from the story to look at, since all aspects should be taken it. In summary- the woman is depressed, she is kept in a room by her husband (who felt this was the best course of treatment, considering the time it was written), and the room holds all her fears and worries, driving her to insanity. I've read a statement by Gilman explaining this story and her own battle with depression, therefor killing any unique thoughts or ideas about the text. By defining it exactly with her own experiences, the author takes away the "fun" of literature- exploring the work and interpreting it for ourselves. Sure, it is nice to have the author's purpose there in black and white, since it takes away the infamous guessing game, but it also takes away from the story. We are then conditioned to immediately ask, "Was the author like this? How could they write a story if not?" after each piece read. Another arguement for the lack of a need for author history in examining literature? Perhaps.

Gilman, ''The Yellow Wallpaper'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 3, 2007 7:18 PM | TrackBack

I agree with you that eventually she kills herself in the end after her husband faints.

This story is self-explanatory in that the woman is insane and that perhaps the author writing the story had to have some tribulations in her life. Vanessa, your line about the author taking the fun out of literature is very true. At the end of some stories, in the appendix, some authors comment on their story and what they wanted the audience to get out of it. I hate this because, like you said, we have all the questions answered and we didn't even have to look closer into the reading to find the internal meaning. I do believe that the author was not originally insane but that it occured preogressively just like the story; however, this was not obvious to her.

Posted by: Denamarie at February 5, 2007 10:17 PM

I'm right there with you. The author's opinion of what the story is about, should be like one person's interpretation. It does hold more weight if you are dependent upon the true meaning. But if you are reading a piece for artistic and creative growth, who cares what the author says. New Criticism all the way!

Posted by: Stephan at February 6, 2007 8:04 PM

(Thank you, our un-classmate Stephan, for your vote against author's authority.)

This story provides so many avenues for exploration that I'm actually excited to talk about it in class (again... but with a new group of people!). I am forming some new ideas regarding what I think is happening in the story, especially at the end; however, I still somehow think that she either killed herself or Gilman wants us to think that she killed herself (what with all the imagery leading readers to that conclusion like a bread crumb trail to a candy mountain.

(Side note: has everyone seen the silly little skit about Charlie the Unicorn and candy mountain? It's on YouTube... just search for Charlie the Unicorn... hilarious.)

Posted by: Karissa at February 7, 2007 12:28 AM
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