The Yellow Wallpaper: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Edinburgh Neurology Book Club met virtually in May to discuss Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, a fevered account of enforced house-rest and bed-rest. It may have been written in 1890, but this short story has many lessons for neurologists, both in lockdowns and beyond.

The Yellow Wallpaper is the fictional diary of a narrator who, suffering from postnatal depression, is under orders to remain in the upstairs nursery. Writing is banned, as are exercise, visitors and even seeing her baby. This remedy, known as the rest cure, is disastrous. Her entries swiftly lose contact with reality, becoming increasingly bizarre. She develops an obsession with the wallpaper, imagining a woman trapped behind it. The claustrophobic and disturbing climax of the novel is ambiguous: is she cured, or has she lost the last of her sanity?

While only 35 pages, the book raises many questions, and our group came up with…

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