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The Literature of Prescription

A Terrifying Tale

Black and White illustration of a woman sitting in a rocking chair by a barred window, holding a paper and pen.
The New England Magazine, January 1892
Courtesy National Library of Medicine

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The narrator of “The Yellow Wall-Paper,”
imprisoned in her room.

Soon after she and her husband separated, Charlotte wrote “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” during a heat wave in Pasadena, California in the summer of 1890. She took two days to complete the shocking story. The narrator is a woman prescribed the rest cure by her husband John, a physician. Confined to her bedroom, a former children’s nursery with bars on the windows, she secretly writes in her diary. As the weeks go by, her mind deteriorates as her forced isolation and the prohibition against intellectual pursuits take their toll.


“I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.”

The narrator, "The Yellow Wall-Paper"

The narrator and her caretaker, Jennie.

With only her immediate surroundings to look at, the character becomes increasingly perplexed by the garish color and intricate patterns of the wallpaper all around her. She begins to see distorted shapes, eventually identifying a woman trapped behind the paper fighting to get out. Empathizing with the figure because of their shared imprisonment, the narrator tears down the wallpaper to end her own visions and free her fellow inmate.

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Black and White illustration of two women in long dresses.

The New England Magazine, January 1892
Courtesy National Library of Medicine


Black and White illustration of a woman leaning over a fainted man

The New England Magazine
, January 1892

Courtesy National Library of Medicine

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The narrator with her husband, who has fainted
after finding her in deep distress.

The story ends with the narrator's husband discovering his wife
maniacally circling the bedroom, surrounded by the tattered
shreds of paper she has torn from the walls. He faints at the
sight.

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Digital Documents

To the Yound Wife

“To the Young Wife,”
In This Our World,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
1893

Courtesy Schlesinger Library,
Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University

The Mother's Charge

“The Mother's Charge,”
In This Our World,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
1893

Courtesy Schlesinger Library,
Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University

Excerpts from Diary

Excerpts from Charlotte
Perkins Stetson's Personal
Diary, April 15, 1887

Transcript of the diary

Courtesy Schlesinger Library,
Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University


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