“The yellow wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Book Review

As you know, May is Short Story month. For my second read, I chose a short story that has been on my TBR for several years.  It was recommended to me by a co-worker, and I cannot imagine what made me take so long to get around to reading it.

What a disturbing and memorable little story!

Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a female unnamed protagonist. She is a young wife and mother. Married to a physician, she is suffering from a “nervous depression, a slight hysterical tendency” (I read post-partum depression).   To aid in her ‘recovery’, he takes her to a house which he has rented for three months. He installs her in a room which takes up almost all of the top floor. Its barred windows command views in every direction – and, it has hideous yellow wallpaper.


The young woman feels uneasy in the house – in this horrible room. She cries often, without knowing quite why.  Her husband administers tonics to make her better. She feels increasingly unable to think straight.

As the weeks pass, she becomes more and more fanciful. She imagines that her husband gives her strange looks, and, that there is a woman inside the wallpaper eager to get out… she sees the pattern on the wallpaper move.

First published in 1892, this little story is a classic in the truest sense. It has withstood the test of time and is touted by many as feminist fiction, though horror fiction is more accurate in my opinion. I think that this is a story to read and reread many times in order to gain the true measure of its worthiness.  It is a testament to the social standing of women in the time it was written.  Women were then property of their husband. They were given little to no autonomy. It also addresses the issue of mental illness in the 19th century. A time when the mentally ill were banished from society.

The female protagonist in this story was doomed to a forced convalescence. The very worst thing for her mental health. Her enforced idleness increased her psychosis and she endured a creepy and horrible fate.

This story employs subtle, chilling, psychological horror that worms its way into your mind and imprints upon your brain. Highly recommended!


Charlotte Perkins Gilman; also Charlotte Perkins Stetson, was a prominent American feminist, sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform.  She was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1860 and died in Pasadena, California in 1935.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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24 Responses to “The yellow wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Spell the Month in Books – MAY #SpellTheMonthInBooks #BookRecommendations | Fictionophile

  2. Diana @ Thoughts on Papyrus says:

    You sum up this book very well. It left a powerful impression on me. I particularly liked how the author managed to present such a horrific predicament using so little words and sentences. It is a short story but feels so significant, and that voice is so convincing.


  3. David Gane says:

    It’s been a long time since I read this, but I remember it certainly affected me at the time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This was a lovely, shocking story that I read at a friend’s recommendation. Love your review, completely voices my sentiments!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. janowrite says:

    This is a brilliant classic, thanks for the reminder! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sheree Strange says:

    Oh my gosh, I’d *completely* forgotten about this one!! I took a short story literature elective when I was studying, and we critiqued The Yellow Wallpaper in depth. Thanks for the memories, and the reminder – I’ll have to dig it out and have another read, see how my perspective has changed!


  7. FictionFan says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks of this as horror rather than as feminist fiction. It’s such a great story! I’m just about to read Herland by her, which I believe really is feminist fiction…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Sandra says:

    I believe there may have been an element of it being semi-autobiographical but don’t take that as gospel. I remember the story well though I’ve never gone on to read more of her work despite promising myself that I would. One day!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is such a brilliant, chilling series- so glad you loved it- brilliant review!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I read this a few years ago and found it very odd and creepy.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. “Her enforced idleness increased her psychosis and she endured a creepy and horrible fate.”

    What a ‘cure!’ Such an important first person account.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Martie says:

    I did not know that May is short story month. I didn’t always care for short stories but then I found good ones and now love them. I will remember this May 2019. Thanks for letting me know.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pragya says:

    Oh, I love it. Have read it twice. It’s so eerie and spooky. Glad you finally got to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Literate Goddess says:

    I have unsubscribed, please stop the emails

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 2 people

    • If you have unsubscribed, you should no longer get emails. I have no control over this. I think you’d have to contact WordPress about the issue. Make sure your WordPress reader settings are the way you want them.


    • I follow your blog via my WordPress Reader. You can set your preferences to not receive any emails at all, or once a day, or once a week. It is up to you. You don’t have to unsubscribe to stop the emails. You just have to alter your WP reader settings.


  15. skyecaitlin says:

    It is a wonderful story I have read and taught several times.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Charlotte says:

    I studied this in school. It definitely is a chilling story! Great review, I love short stories 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I absolutely love this short story. It’s incredible!! So glad you managed to read it and enjoy it. X

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I read this one a couple of years ago and couldn’t believe I hadn’t before – truly memorable

    Liked by 2 people

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