Mental Illness and Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper


It’s Elly here! I’ve not actually posted much on here for quite a while now, but after reading The Yellow Wallpaper I knew that I had to write a post about it! This is kind of a book review/ analysis type thing, so I hope you enjoy!

Anyone who knows me will know that I LOVE books, particularly ones with interesting subject matter and feminist-y stuff. That’s why, when my friend told me about The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I just had to read it! And man am I glad I did (even if it was a little creepy)!

The book is written from the point of view of a woman (we never get her name) who is seemingly struggling with mental illness (in this case probably a type of depression, as that is what people think the author struggled with herself). However, nobody will believe that the narrator is actually ill, which is kinda understandable, considering the novella was written – and I’m assuming is set – in 1892. (Yup, it’s old!) Thing is, not even her beloved husband, who is a highly respected physician, believes her, so it is literally NO ONE. She even doubts herself at times as a result of this, and, honestly, I really felt for her because of this.

The way mental illness is portrayed in The Yellow Wallpaper is quite interesting, in my opinion, particularly as the book is written in first person. This means that the reader experiences life through the eyes of someone dealing with mental illness, giving quite a real sense of how it might be. This is helped by the fact that the story is based on Gilman’s personal experience with mental illness, so you really get to see things from a different perspective. I’ll try not to spoil it too much, but I will say that the comparisons made to certain things about the paper towards the end of the novella really play a part in understanding the narrator’s condition.

Now onto the feminism!! (YAY)

In 1892, women were heavily oppressed, and were seen as only useful in family situations – as mothers and wives. They weren’t supposed to show any signs of intellect, which is shown in the book as the narrator has to hide her writing from anyone else in the household, particularly her husband. HOWEVER, the author was very passionate about women’s rights, and didn’t agree with this attitude towards females, so, naturally, she wrote a book about it! This idea is presented throughout the book – fairly subtly at parts – and helps the reader to sympathise with the narrator even more. Sadly, there are still societies like this around the world, but that means that this book is still so relevant.

Overall, I would definitely recommend The Yellow Wallpaper, as I think the messages in it are important, even now when we have come a fairly long way regarding women’s rights and mental illness compared to when the book was written. Many people still don’t understand the trauma that many people go through due to mental illnesses, whether it is a member of the family or a friend who has one, or them. Feminism is also still very relevant, as women are still expected not to be intelligent or have to do anything in many places, even if those places aren’t all that close to home.

Have you ever read The Yellow Wallpaper? If so, what did you think? If not, might you want to read it? (It’s only 6000 words so I’m sure you’d manage) Do you think books like this on are important as means to understand mental illness and feminism more? Let me know!

Feel free to ask me anything in the comments!

~ Elly x

My links:

Blog: A Hufflepuff’s Thoughts | Twitter: @badgerunicorn | Instagram: @egb1708 | Pinterest: @badgerunicorn


13 thoughts on “Mental Illness and Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper

  1. Sydney says:

    I LOVED the Yellow Wallpaper!! I completely agree with you! It was so fascinating to learn, almost first hand (in the sense that it was through her eyes), the way women and mental illness was treating back then! Great post Elly Xx

    Liked by 1 person

Have your say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s