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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Gothic Undercurrents

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Activities: Author Activities

Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Author Questions

Back Back to Charlotte Perkins Gilman Activities
  1. Comprehension: Describe the narrator of "The Yellow Wall-paper" as precisely as you can. Why does she spend all of her time in the nursery? What is "wrong" with her? To what extent does she change over the course of the story?

  2. Comprehension: Describe the Wall-paper. Why is the narrator both fascinated and repulsed by it?

  3. Comprehension: By the end of the story, the narrator seems to believe she has achieved a victory: " 'I've got out at last,' said I, 'in spite of you and Jane! And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!' " Do you agree that she has emerged victorious? If so, in what sense?

  4. Context: How does the narrator's husband, John, treat her? She notes, "He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency." Why does he emphasize her "imaginative power," and to what extent do you think Gilman wants us to agree with John's opinion? Think about this in terms of both nineteenth-century anxieties about the supposed promises of science and the ideals of the cult of true womanhood.

  5. Exploration: Look at the advertisement for "Dr. Weiland's Celebrated Worm Lozenges" featured in the archive. In what sense can Gilman's story be seen as a response to the mid-nineteenth-century reverence for science?

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