"The Yellow Wallpaper"
S01E08 Rubber Man
Episode 8 of AHS was all about the literary references, with Moira filling in as your Feminist Literature 101 professor. She sums up the premise of Charlotte Perkins Gliman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” nicely in her talk with Vivien:
Haven’t you read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilmore? Her husband—a doctor—locks her away in the upstairs bedroom to recuperate from a slight hysterical tendency. Staring at the yellow wallpaper day after day, she begins to hallucinate that there are women trapped in the pattern. Half mad she scrapes off the wallpaper to set the women free. When her husband finally unlocks the door, he finds her circling the room, touching the wallpaper, whispering “I finally got out of here.” Since the beginning of time, men find excuses to lock women away. They make up diseases, like hysteria. Do you know where that word comes from? The Greek word for “uterus.”
In addition, “The Yellow Wallpaper” opens with the narrator and her husband moving in to a new and strange house. She suspects something is wrong with the property, as it was obtained cheaply and left abandoned for some time. It is also of note that the narrator has recently had a child and is locked, alone, in an old nursery to recover. And she really, really hates the wallpaper.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" was written as an exaggerated account of author Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s experiences with depression and "melancholia." After seeking medical help, Gilman was prescribed a "rest cure" by her physician, renown specialist Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell. She was only allowed two hours of "intellectual life" per day and was instructed to "never touch pen, brush, or pencil again." Gilman followed the doctor’s directions for months before finding herself at "the borderline of utter mental ruin." She eventually threw aside Dr. Mitchell’s advice, returned to working, and started to recover. She wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a warning to doctors and patients alike, and in the process created a staple of feminist literature.
To read the short story in full (do it!), click here.
And click here to read Gilman’s “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper.”
[On a side note: I’m surprised Ben didn’t claim he was screwing the hysteria out of Hayden. He was merely being a good therapist!]