Writing & Language
Ghosts, haunted houses, ancestral curses—these common tropes of Gothic literature might lead some readers to dismiss the genre as one better suited for entertainment than it is serious literary scholarship. An analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1892 short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," though, demonstrates that the Gothic was a vehicle for serious social commentary worthy of further study. The story's protagonist, suffering from a "nervous condition," becomes obsessed with the wallpaper in her bedroom. At one point, she conjures a disturbing image of a woman trapped behind the bars depicted in the pattern of the wallpaper. Though utterly fantastical, this image is very much grounded in the reality of the oppressive mores of the Victorian era: the trapped figure symbolizes the protagonist's sense of being imprisoned by her social circumstances.