The Dead Paper of Gilman's Yellow Wallpaper
This passage from The Yellow Wallpaper clarifies the position of the reader in the story. It brings into question, right on the first page, who the woman (and Gilman herself) is addressing and why.
When she writes, "I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind," it is as if she is having an aside with the reader. If she were truly talking to dead paper, why would such a comment be required? The idea of "dead paper" makes one think of something that is written, never to be published or read. In this sense, the caption can make the reader feel as if he or she is looking in privately on this woman's diary. The fact that this is "a great relief" to her mind makes the reader feel slightly less furtive about this, while giving the diary-type style raison d'être. At the same time, (since this story was meant to be published and read) this comment in and of itself addresses the reader personally, as if to put special confidence in him or her. The issue here is the differentiation between the author and the woman. While the woman may not mean for anyone to read this, Gilman, as we know from the story's introduction, obviously does.
To complicate things, directly after this aside she addresses the reader personally and indisputably when she writes, "You see, he does not believe I am sick!" This puts the reader in the second person, strengthening the sense that the reader is being directly addressed. The woman is pleading for the empathy of the reader. She asks the reader's opinion when she writes, "And what can one do?" The reader may...