Rewriting "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman rank as two of the most outstanding champions of women's rights who were active during the nineteenth century. Both professed a deep and personal faith and both were wise enough and secure enough to develop their own ideas and relationship with their creator. In 1895 Stanton published The Woman's Bible, her personal assault on organized religion's strangle-hold on the women of the world. Gilman published her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" in 1892. She wrote the story, she said, "to save people from being driven crazy" (Golden 52). The heroine of "The Yellow Wallpaper" finds her only escape from the oppression of a condescending spouse is a headlong descent into madness.
Stanton and Gilman met at least once, about 1896 according to Gilman's autobiography. "Of the many people I met during these years I was particularly impressed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. To have been with her . . . seemed to establish connection with a splendid period of real heroism" (Gilman 216). Perhaps if the philosophies of these two great women were to come together, at the perfect moment, they would possess the potential to save the heroine of "The Yellow Wallpaper." The following scenario might prove feasible.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman l
I was climbing up a mountain-path
With many things to do,
Important business of my own,
And other people's too,
When I ran against a Prejudice
That quite cut off my view.
The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
amended, with apologies,
by Margaret A. Stanton
The heroine of "The Yellow Wallpaper" has been brought to the country by her husband to speed her recovery from a depression, possibly a post-partum depression. She has been told she may do no work of any kind. She must not read, write, sew, or tire herself with daily chores. Over her objections her husband has insisted she take her ease in the top-floor nursery of the house, a large room with barred windows. In her boredom she has taken to studying the wallpaper in the nursery. It is a ghastly yellow color with an intriguing and intricate pattern. In the paper she discovers the ghosts that are haunting her desolation.
There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numinous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don't like it a bit (Gilman, Heath 806).
So I spoke to him politely,
For he was huge and high,
And begged that he would move a bit
And let me travel by.
He smiled, but as for moving! --
He didn't even try.
I wonder -- I begin to think -- I wish John [my husband] would take me away from...