Contrary Interpretations of The Yellow Wallpaper
“The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published in New England Magazine in 1892. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an advocate for the advancement of women, authored the short story. She intended the piece to bring to light the inherent ineptitude of the Weir Mitchell “rest cure.” Though this subject is addressed, many other pertinent topics are broached, ever so subtly. Other themes in the book include the role of women in a society dominated by men, the role of the mother, and how oppression can affect the mind of a creative individual. These themes, however, can be altered merely by how the tale is edited. I intend to point out some of the pertinent differences that exist between the full text of the story and an abridged version, describing how they give the same story contrary interpretations.
To better understand the differences I will be noting, one may find it helpful to be familiar with the basic plot of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Both versions relate the story of a woman losing her mind. She has not been feeling well for some time, so her husband, a physician, decides a summer spent relaxing in the country would benefit her. While there, she is forbidden to write in her journal, as it indulges her imagination, which is not in accordance with her husband’s wishes. Despite this, the narrator makes entries in the journal whenever she has the opportunity. Through these entries we learn of her obsession with the wallpaper in her bedroom. She is enthralled with it and studies the paper for hours. She fancies she sees a woman trapped behind the pattern in the paper. The story reaches its climax when her husband must force his way into the bedroom, only to find that his wife has pulled the paper off the wall and is crawling around the perimeter of the room.
The most easily recognizable difference between the original story and the abridged version, which was printed in Reader’s Digest, can be noted even before reading. This distinction is the way in which the paragraphs are divided. In the full text, the paragraphs are terse and somewhat disjointed. This erratic paragraphing can be attributed to the narrator’s precarious mental state. It is possible that in the abridged version paragraphs have been condensed for space-saving purposes and perhaps reader-friendliness. While that is understandable, it takes away from the authenticity of the story. The narrator is indeed a woman on the verge of a mental collapse. It seems reasonable that her writing would be illogical and somewhat irrational, as her actions are, as the story progresses. The irregular paragraphs of the original capture her paranoid state of mind. Her thoughts are broken much like our stream of consciousness. Also, it should be noted that she is writing quickly, hoping not to be caught by her husband or sister-in-law. It would stand to reason...