Writing

The Yellow Wallpaper The Rhetoric of Insanity

Then, it will trace how Gilman uses this story as meta-fiction to draw in the reader in the same way as the yellow wallpaper gets the narrator involved with it. Gilman’s commentary on the act of writing itself presented as the subtext in this story will also be explored. The story begins with the narrator stating that she and her husband are ‘mere ordinary people’ who have had the rare opportunity of renting out an ancestral house for the summer. However, in the very next line, she declares ‘I would call it a haunted house’ and that there was ‘something queer about it.’ These phrases give the reader a clue that like the house she describes, the narrator herself is not quite what she seems at first sight. Under the facade of normalcy, there is visible a tendency towards ‘romantic felicity’ which sets the stage for what will take place next. The numerous asides in the first few passages again reflect the narrator’s uncertain identity. … Apart from the sentence structure, the style of writing too is quite high-strung in nature. Words are italicized for emphasis frequently (delicious, draught, etc.) and exclamations and interrogative sentences are liberally used. For instance: John is a physician, and perhaps — (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) — perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster (Gilman 1). It can be noted here that she also uses personification and attribution of qualities of life to inanimate objects. Here, she calls paper ‘dead’. She goes on to say later how ‘I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have!’ This unusual attribution of human or lively characteristics to objects brings the reader’s attention to the gradual change in her perception of reality through the literary device of personification or anthropomorphism. The text gradually gets more incoherent as the narrator begins to reveal how desperate she is to write and how it is forbidden to her. Her story gets abruptly halted at certain junctions: No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long. There comes John, and I must put this away, — he hates to have me write a word (Gilman 2). And, I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design. There’s sister on the stairs! (Gilman 4). Apart from the sudden breaks in writing, the sentences also get shorter and progressively more uncaring of syntax or grammar. In the entry after the one mentioning Fourth of July, the narrator begins with: ‘I don’t know why I should write this. I don’t want to.

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