Learn English Through Literature

One of the many approaches to learning a new language (in this particular case, English) is reading books, novels, short stories and even the newspaper in the target language.

Learn English Through LiteratureOne of the many classic short stories recommended by this site is “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by C. P. Gilman. The series of events towards the end of the story depict a rather dramatic, confusing and odd situation which causes one of the characters to faint. Although the mentioned events do perhaps seek to instill fear in the reader; that is, so long one does not dig deeper yet, below the Gothic horror surface of the story, and fails to grasp the underlying, true significance of it, i.e., the concealed criticism of the society of the time around when the story was written that Gilman really intended; in truth, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is but an early example of feminist literature disguised as Gothic horror.

What we truly witness, as readers, is a conclusion that results in the inexorable mental breakdown and, incidentally and coincidentally, the breakout from the prison in which the protagonist was held captive, namely her marriage to John, an oppressive albeit loving husband who does not treat his wife’s ideas, needs or even “condition” with the seriousness they deserve. What would most likely happen after the concluding scene, where the story be continued by Gilman or someone else, is the protagonist’s confinement to a mental institution, which would probably represent a vicious cycle of sorts, given that she would, again, end up in a situation of captivity, perhaps even worse than the one she was in before.

However, the breaking of the mental chains she was bound by was perhaps so significant that she might never more be restrained by them. We are indeed left with the bittersweet feeling that the protagonist does manage to break free from that state of imprisonment, albeit at the expense of her own sanity.