A Gothic Allegory In 'The Yellow Wallpaper'

Decent Essays

Concluding his provocative 1989 essay delineating how Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” functions as a Gothic allegory, Greg Johnson describes Gilman’s achievement as yet awaiting its “due recognition” and her compelling short story as being “[s]till under-read, still haunting the margins of the American literary canon” (530).1 Working from the premise that Gilman’s tale “adroitly and at times parodically employs Gothic conventions to present an allegory of literary imagination unbinding the social, domestic, and psychological confinements of a nineteenth-century woman writer,” Johnson provides a fairly satisfactory general overview of “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a Gothic production (522). Despite the disputable claim that Gilman’s story functions, in part, as a Gothic parody, he correctly identifies and aptly elucidates several of the most familiar Gothic themes at work in this study— specifically “confinement and rebellion, forbidden desire and ‘irrational’ fear”—alongside such traditional Gothic elements as “the distraught heroine, the forbidding mansion, and the powerfully repressive male antagonist” (522). Johnson ultimately overlooks,
Address correspondence to Carol Margaret Davison, English Language, Literature & Creative Writing, 401 Sunset Avenue, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. E-mail:
48 CAROL MARGARET DAVISON however, the extent and ends to which Gilman adapts traditional Gothic conventions. He did not then have the

Get Access
Get Access