Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Writings (Modern Library Classics)

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"There is no female mind. The brain is not an organ of sex. Might as well speak of a female liver."--Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935), a leading figure in the women's movement of the early twentieth century, is a pillar of the American feminist canon. This edition of her work includes her best-known story, "The Yellow Wall-paper," a terrifying tale about a woman driven to the brink of insanity by the "rest cure" she is ordered to follow by her doctor to relieve her postpartum depression. Also included is a wide range of other short stories; an abridged version of her little-known but brilliant utopian novel, Herland, about a peaceful all-female world; and selections from her landmark treatise, Women and Economics, first published in 1898 to universal acclaim.

Feature The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Writings (Modern Library Classics)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Post Partum Madness, March 15, 2002
ByKimberly Wells (Shreveport, LA USA) (REAL NAME)
This review is from: The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings (Bantam Classics) (Paperback)
Gilman was a feminist, a radical suffragist and a woman who was told that all of her thoughts and energies ought to be solely focused on something that she wasn't really interested in being: a mother. She suffered from post-partum depression and severe anxiety later in life. The title story, "the Yellow Wallpaper" is a semi-autobiographical account of what happened when she had to go through a "rest cure" for her "hysteria." The title story is her most well-known, but the other writings are very good too, and worth a second look. She wrote prolifically-- and deserves to be better known. The first time I ever encountered this story was at a dramatic interpretation contest in high school-- and when the girl performing this did her descent into madness, it made the hair crawl on the back of my neck. If you really think about what's going on, you too will be creeped out.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
3.0 out of 5 stars Glaring mistake at story's conclusion, October 30, 2007
ByK. Mcgarry "karibob" (Cincinnati, OH United States) (REAL NAME)
This review is from: The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings (Bantam Classics) (Paperback)
I'm sure this collection of Gilman's work is adequate enough, however, at the end of the story, "The Yellow Wall-paper," there is a mistake in the printing of a name of one of the characters. The text states "Jennie" when it should state "Jane," and this completely changes the way a reader would interpret and understand the entire story. Jennie is the sister to John, the protagonists husband. Having her name inserted in this passage wrongly implicates her with the action. Jane is the name the writer and character mean to implicate. Read it again and insert Jane for Jennie and see how the story shifts in importance. Poor Charlotte must be creeping about in her grave at this error.

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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonders of The Wallpaper, December 13, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings (Bantam Classics) (Paperback)
We all know that for every action there is a reaction, especially when treating medical patients. The patient either has a positive or negative reaction. Charlotte Perkins Gilman describes the affects of the medical treatment for women in The Yellow Wallpaper. She writes about a woman that supposedly needs medical treatment and is treated by her own husband. I feel that Gilman uses setting to create a place where the woman feels that she cannot be healed. Also, she has the woman act sane and aware in the beginning of the short story to point out that she does have a chance to be cured. Gilman's work is a great example of showing the medical treatment style in that time and the affects it has on patients. The doctors are not listening to their woman patients, not realizing that woman respond better when they talk out their problems and have someone to listen to and understand them. Gilman's use of an unlikable setting sets the stage for disaster, which is a great technique. Gilman has the woman set up in a romm that is absolutely dull and depressing. The woman is not satisfied with her room and wishes to be somewhere more pleasant to spend her time. "I don't like our room at all...The paint and paper look as if a boys school used is dull enough to confuse the eye in following..." (Pg, 43) The room has bars on the windows, the wallpaper is torn, and the headbaord is chewed on. It is no place for a patient. I feel that anyone would just want to die. In the beginning of the story, Gilman has the woman patient sounds sane as if she could be cured in no time at all. The husband does not listen to his wife and he states that she need not do anything to stress herself out. It means that she should not lift a finger. The woman states, "Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good." (Pg, 42) I feel that Gilman shows the reader right away the correct medical treatment method. Gilman also slips in the damaging affects that are caused by the phosphites the woman takes. She writes, "My brother is a physician...and says the same thing. So I take the phosphates and phosphites." (Pg, 42) I believe it again points out that Gilman is mocking the medical treatment. John, the woman's husband, went to medical school and the treatment he uses now is what he learned there. The author is pointing out that it is not personally his fault for the results of the patient, meaning his wife's results. It seems that Gilamn is focusing on the fact that medical doctors are not listening to women patients and becoming aware that women need to be open with their problems. Otherwise they cannot be curred. It seems that Gilman is trying to explain the problems of the medical treatments for women, in my opinion, is outstanding. Mixing a light tone of writing, using setting poperfully, and ensuring the woman in the story that she is sane for the start. Overall, the short story is a success in acheiving those goals

3.0 out of 5 stars A Review by Dr. Joseph Suglia, November 8, 2009
ByDr. Joseph Suglia "The Greatest Author in the...
This review is from: The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Writings (Modern Library Classics) (Paperback)
In 1887, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was committed to a sanitarium in Pennsylvania run by one Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, the popularizer of a cure for female hysteria. Every female hysteric, according to Mitchell, should be placed under the watchful supervision of a (male) physician. He must oversee the strict regimentation of her body's habits. Such vigilant monitoring is a conditio sine qua non for any physician who wishes to cure the patient of her malady. She must submit unquestioningly to the physician's will and obey all of his prescriptions-one of which, invariably, is the injunction to do nothing. Bed rest is compulsory and should be vigorously enforced. The patient is to be placed in a state of perpetual invalidism; all forms of activity to which she is accustomed must be invalidated. Above all, she must not write. Five years later, Gilman published the novella The Yellow Wallpaper, a slightly veiled polemic against Weir Mitchell (the physician is even mentioned explicitly in the text) and the "cure" to female depression and hysteria that he advocated. The narrative is written from the perspective of a woman who undergoes a nervous breakdown. What we are reading is her diary, which charts her gradual mental deterioration. The narrator and her husband/physician, John, have rented an ancestral house for a summer. John prescribes for the narrator a "rest cure" that is clearly indebted to the teachings of Weir Mitchell. She is prohibited from writing; she writes nonetheless, perhaps to spite him. Isolated in her room and completely inactive except for her writing, the narrator becomes transfixed by the sickeningly grotesque wallpaper that surrounds her. She projects her self into the convoluted patterns of the paper and imagines a feminine figure-not necessarily a "woman," but rather a "shape... like a woman" [39] -- entangled in the radiating network of fronds and vines. The feminine shape escapes from the wallpaper's intricate web and is seen "creeping up and down" in the "dark grape arbors" [45] of the courtyard. In the final scene of the work, the narrator, who has seemingly lost her mind, tears off the wallpaper and crawls and "creeps" "smoothly" [50] across the floor and over John, who has collapsed lifelessly after seeing his wife wriggling and writhing on the ground. Since all of this is composed in the present tense, apparently she is writing as she is creeping. Two orders of writing are figured in the novella. On the one hand, there is the language of the yellow wallpaper, which spreads its sprawling patterns, its fecundating, fungoid forms, all over the room in which the narrator is confined-this is clearly representative of the language of medicine and maleness. On the other hand, there is the ideolect of the female narrator, who frees herself by writing in defiance of her husband's orders. Writing is here figured as a mode of activity-which, for Mitchell, is a quintessentially male practice (women who are active, according to Mitchell, ape men). Little known in the century in which it was written, The Yellow Wallpaper was rediscovered in the late twentieth century and has become what is easily one of the most "over-interpreted" works of fiction in the last few decades. Most interpreters have pointed to the novella as a figuration of female liberation in modernist fiction. Despite its seeming simplicity, they invariably point to the text's so-called "ambiguities" and "contradictions," the most glaring of which is the manner in which the novella ends; most seem to believe that the novella ends complicatedly and equivocally. Does the narrator, in fact, achieve liberation Or does she not John, it is often said, faints to the floor, and fainting, as everyone knows, is somehow "feminine." Therefore, the narrator has perhaps achieved a "victory" over John. (One should also call attention to the fact that John is referred to, in the final scene, as "that man" [50], his proper name having been replaced by a demonstrative pronoun and a common noun.) And yet the narrator is also reduced, at the close of the novella, to the status of a worm or a snake, crawling and creeping across the floor along a self-ordained path. She certainly seems to have "precipitated" into what is usually described as "madness"-a "madness" that is attributed not to her "imaginative power and habit of story-making" [34], but rather to her husband's profession. Her progressive "improve[-ment]" [43] has resulted in a regressive deterioration. Because of this central ambiguity between "positive" and "negative" meanings, the novella seems, at once, a celebratory and affirmative "portrayal" of female liberation from a constraining, male-dominated order and an elegiac, despairing cri de coeur that proclaims the seeming impossibility of liberation from tyrannical maleness. The notion that this is an interesting "ambiguity" or "contradiction" escapes this reader. Far richer literary works of art were produced during the same period in which The Yellow Wallpaper was written. Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Djuana Barnes are only a few examples of female writers whose work is far more provocative and complex than that of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. No one with a shred of rationality would deny that The Yellow Wallpaper has a didactic character; and, with the exception of a few trite "ambiguities," its meanings are almost completely self-explanatory. The simplicity of the work may explain the multiplication of critical discourses that it has generated. Dr. Joseph Suglia

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive Feminism, December 14, 2001
ByColleen Sullivan (Alexandria, NH United States)
This review is from: The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Writings (Modern Library Classics) (Paperback)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman stands out as a feminist. She is known for her short stories, but is also wrote a novel, Herland, and a couple articles on women in society during the late 1800's. Her short stories are not all based on feminism, but rather life lessons. Her novel is creative but unrealistic. Her articles, "women and Economics" and "The Man Made World" are very repetitive. She expresses the same views with every point she is trying to make: the point being that men dominate almost every aspect of life, politics, marriage, money, society, and family life. Her fiction is enjoyable reading. It not only could appeal to women but also men, because it does not focus only on feminist views. She expresses ideas on life that men and women share. There is always a clear image of what is going on in the story. Her articles are very bitter, and her arguments are based on the same idea, that men rule and it is unfair to think that women are incapable of what men do. She talks mostly of what women don't do, and nothing of what women are able to do. Reading one section of both of her articles put together is like reading the whole thing. Young women today may find it hard to relate to her views, because things have changed drastically from 1890 to today. As a feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman was outspoken and strong with her one view. If there is an interest in Gilman, read her novel or short stories. They are much more interesting then her repetitive feminist articles.

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