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The following program is recorded by KPFA Berkeley under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. We present the American woman in fact in fiction a series of 13 programs by Virginia Maynard Part 11. The yellow wallpaper in 1898 Charlotte Perkins Gilman the American sociologist writer and lecturer published her woman and economics in which she developed the thesis that the forced economic dependence of woman upon man was a morbid condition which was detrimental to the social development of woman and to the human race. The following year she published a short story. The yellow wall paper which illustrated in artistic terms her views concerning the restricted existence of woman and its disastrous effect. It's the story of a woman isolated in a lonely house who becomes morbidly preoccupied with the pattern of the wallpaper in her room is essentially the story of a woman who is revolting against the pattern of her life a
pattern which for centuries had barred women from all forms of human endeavor except those connected with home household and husband. Confinement to the four walls of homes that Charlotte Perkins Gilman and woman in economics gives a disproportionate prominence to the few things woman knows about. But this is innocence in action compared with her restricted expression the denial of the freedom to act something of the world she lives in she has seen from her barred windows. But in the ever growing human impulse to create the power and will to make to do to express her spirit in new forms here she has been utterly DeBar the increasing constriction of custom has closed in upon women a civilization advanced like the iron torture chamber of romance. Each woman born has had to live over again in her own person. The same process of repression the smothering know which crushed down all her human desires to create to discover to
learn to advance the condition of woman has always been a doorway to evil. So wrote Charlotte Perkins Gilman the sociologist in woman and economics we present now her artistic expression of this same thesis yellow wallpaper. It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer. A colonial mansion hereditary estate. I would say a haunted house but that would be asking too much of fate. Still I will declare that there is something queer about it. Else why should it be lit so cheaply. John laughs at me of course one expects that in marriage John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith and intense horror of superstition and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be fair and seen put down in figures.
John is a physician and perhaps that's one reason I don't get well fast. You see he doesn't believe I am sick. And what can one do if a position of high standing and one's own husband assures friends and relatives that there's really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression. What is one to do. So I take tonics and journeys and air and exercise and I'm absolutely forbidden to work until I am well again. Personally I believe that congenial work with excitement and change would do me good. I did write for a while in spite of them. But it does exhaust me a good deal having to be so sly about it or else meet with heavy opposition. I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition and I confess it always makes me feel bad
so I let it alone and talk about the how the most beautiful way. It's what you do. Standing well back from the three miles from the village. It's been empty for years. But there is something strange about that. I can feel it. I even said so to John one more night but he said what I felt was a draft and shut the window. I get unreasonably angry John. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it's due to this nervous condition. But John says if I feel so I shall neglect proper self-control. So I take pains to control myself before him at least and that makes me very tired. I don't like our room. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window But John wouldn't hear of it. He said there was only one window and not room for two beds and a room for him if he took another. He's very careful and loving Hardy lets me steer without special direction.
I have a scheduled prescription for each hour in the day. He takes all care from me and so I fear basically I'm grateful not to value it more. He said We came here soley on my account that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. So we took the nursery at the top of the house. It's a big boom boom floor nearly with windows that look always in the air and sunshine glow. It was nursery first and then Paper Men gymnasium I should judge for the windows are barred for little children and their rings and things in the paint and paper look as if the boy school had used. It stripped off the paper in great patches all around the head of my bed about his bars I can read and integrate placed on the other side of the room no doubt. I never saw a worse paper in my life. It's dull enough to confuse the eye and final and pronounced enough constantly to irritate and provoke study. And when you follow the lame uncertain careers for a little distance
they suddenly come soon. Don't read this and. Destroy themselves an unheard of contradiction. The color is repellent. Almost revolting. A small ring unclean yet strangely faded by the slow turning sun. No wonder the children hated it. I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long. There comes John and I must put this away. He heeds to have me right here where. We have been here two weeks and I haven't felt like writing since that first day. I'm sitting by the window up in this atrocious nursery. John is away all day and even some nights when his cases are serious I'm glad my case is not serious. But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. John doesn't know how much I really suffer. He knows there's no reason to suffer and that satisfies him.
I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wallpaper at first he meant to repay for the bill but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies. He said that after the wallpaper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead and then the barred windows and then that gate at the head of the stairs and so. Then do let's move downstairs I said. There is such a pretty rooms there. Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessin little girl and said he would go down cellar if I wished to have it whitewashed into the bargain. But it is as airy and comfortable room as any one need wish and of course I wouldn't be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim. I'm really getting quite fond of the room but that horrid paper out of one window I can see the go there's a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in those numers
But John is cautioned me not to give way to that really. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story making a nervous with this like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies and that I'll use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try. I think sometimes that if I could only write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest. But it's so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work. When I get really well John says well ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit but he says he did soon put fireworks in my pillow case and to let me have those stimulating people about now. I wish I could get well but I mustn't think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had. There's a recurrent spot where the pattern LOL is like a broken neck and two eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry with the impertinence of
it and the everlasting up and down and sideways that and those absurd unblinking eyes are everywhere. There comes John Sr.. So did dear and so fearful of me I mustn't let her find me right. She's a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper and hope for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks that the writing which made me sick but I can write when she is out and see are a long way off from these window. This would be perhaps a kind of Sabbat and in a different she had a particularly irritating one for you can only see it in certain lights and not clearly. But in the places where it isn't faded and where the sun is just so I can see is grain provoking form a sort of figure that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design. Their sister on this day.
John says if I don't pick up faster he'll send me to wear mittens in the fall. But I don't want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once and he says he's just like John when the mowers. I'm getting really quite fond of this room it's by the way perhaps because the way you do wells in my mind's eye lie here on this great movable bed. It's nailed down I believe and follow that pattern about by the hour. It's as good as gymnastics. I start with the bottom down in the corner over there where it's not been touched and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion. I know a little of the principle of design. And I know what this thing was not arranged on any laws of radiation or alternation or repetition or symmetry or anything else that I ever heard. Looked at in one way. Each brick stands alone the bloated curves and flourishes waddling up and down
in isolated columns of the two wood but on the other hand they connect diagonally and this rolling outlines runoff and bridge slanting ways of optic horror like a lot of swallowing sea weeds and. The thing goes. At least it seems so. And I exhaust myself trying to distinguish the order of it's going in that direction. There is one end of the room where it's almost intact. And there when the cross light the and the low sun shines directly upon it the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common center and rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction. Hired to follow. Dear John he loves me dearly and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day and tell him how I was you would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia. But he said I was unable to go nor able to stand it after I got there. And I didn't make out a very good case for myself for I was
crying before I had finished. And Dear John gathered me up in his arms and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head. He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had. And I must take care of myself for his sake and keep well. He says no one but myself can help me out of it. I missed you my will and self-control not let any silly fancies run away with me. Of course I never mention it to them and I'm too why I keep watch for it all the same. There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me or ever will find that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer everything. Always this new very new. And it's like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind. I do wish John would take me away from here. It's so
hard to talk with John about my case because he's too why he's And because he loves me so I tried it last night. It was moon shines you know. Just. I hate to see it sometimes. So school. And always comes in by one when. John was asleep and I hated to wake him so I could stay and watch the moonlight on that undulating wall be would I don't creep. The think figure behind seemed to shake the pattern just as if you wanted to get out got up softly and went to feel and see if the baby didn't move one back. John was away. What is a cuddle. Don't go walking about like that. You'll catch cold. I thought it was a good time to talk so I told him that I really wasn't gaining you and I wished he would take me away. White darling said he our lease will be up in three weeks and I can see of leave before. Of course if you were in any danger I couldn't would. But you
really are better dear whether you can see it or not I am not a doctor dear and I know you're gaining flesh. Your appetite is better. I feel really much easier about it. I don't weigh a bit that I know as much and my appetite may be better in the evening when you're here but it's worse in the morning when you're away. Bless her little heart said she she'll be as sick as she please. But now let's improve the shining hours by going to sleep and talk about it in the morning. And you won't go. We want you you don't need three weeks more and then we'll take a nice little trip of a few days while Jenny's getting the house ready. Really dear you are better. Better in body perhaps I began. My darling said I beg of you for my sake that you would never for one instant let that idea into your mind. There is nothing so dangerous so fascinating to a temperament like you. It's a false and foolish
fancy. Can't you trust me as a physician when I tell you so. So of course I said no more on that score and we went to sleep before he thought I was asleep first but I was neither for hours trying to decide whether that front I heard in the back pattern really did move together or separate. On a pattern like this I'd be there's a lack of sequence a defiance of law. That's a constant irritant to a normal mind. The color is hideous enough and unreliable and infuriating that the pattern is torture. You think you've mastered it. But just as you get well underway and following a back somersault and there it's like you in the. Temple to. The outside. Reminds me of a song. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints an interminable string of toadstools budding it's prompting an endless convolutions why
that something like that is. Sometimes there's one marked peculiarity. This peep I think nobody seems to notice but myself and that is that it changes as the like. When the sun shootin through the east window it changes so quickly that I can never quite believe it. That's why I watch it by moonlight I would know it was the same people at night in any kind of light in twilight candle light lamplight and worst of all by moonlight it becomes law. The outside and the woman behind it is as plain as can be. I didn't realize for a long time thing was hind that dim sub pattern. Oh I'm sure it's a woman. By day like she said. Why I thought she's the pattern the keeper says to you. It's so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour. I lie down ever so much now. John says it's good for me to sleep all I can. Indeed you started the habit
by making me lie down for an hour after me. It's a very bad habit I'm convinced for you see I don't sleep. But I don't tell them I'm away. Whoa whoa. The fact is I'm getting a little afraid of John. He seems very queer sometimes. Even Jenny has an inextricable strikes me occasionally just as a scientific hypothesis that perhaps it's the people. I've watched John when he didn't know I was looking and come into the room with the most innocent excuses and I could hear several times looking at the paper and Jenny too. I caught Jennie with her hand on. She didn't know I was in the room. When I asked. My. Voice with the most responding manner possible what she was doing with the paper she turned round as if she'd been caught stealing and looked quite angry. Asked me why I should frighten her. Then she said that the papers everything that she'd found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John's and she wished we'd be more careful.
Did that sound innocent. But I know she was studying that pattern and I'm determined that nobody shall find it out of myself. Life is very much more exciting now than it has to be. You see I have something more to expect to look forward to what I really do eat better and I'm more quiet than I was. John is so pleased to see me improve. He laughed a little the other day and said I seem to be flourishing in spite of my wallpaper. I had no intention of telling you it was because of the world. He would make fun of you might even want to take me away. And I don't want to leave you now until I've found it out. There's a move and I think that will be and I'm feeling ever so much better. I don't sleep much at night. Interesting to watch developments. But I sleep a good deal in the daytime in the daytime it's tiresome and perplexing. There are always new shoes on the fungus and new shades of yellow I can't keep count though I tried conscientiously.
He's just green just you know. It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw. Not beautiful ones but the whole yellow thing. But there's something else about the smell. All over the house. I find it hovering and I'm skulking in the parlor hiding in the hole. Lying in wait for me on the stair used to disturb me ever got seriously burning the house to reach this man. But now I'm used to the only thing I can think of that is light is the color of the big yellow smell. There's a very funny mark on this wall. Street runs around the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture except to be a long straight even as if it had been rocked for it all. How it was done and who did with the
round round round round. Makes me dizzy. I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night when it changes so I finally found the front pattern does move and no wonder. The woman behind shakes. Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind. And sometimes only one. And she crawls around fast and her crawling shakes it all over. And in the very bright spots she keeps still. And in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard and she's got time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern it strangles. I think that's why it has so many had this. They get through. And then the Prince. Turns down the mixer I used.
Those heads were covered or taken off it wouldn't be half so bad. I think that woman gets out in the daytime. And I'll tell you why. I've seen her I can see you out of every one of my windows. It's the same woman I know for she's always creeping and most women don't creep by daylight. I see you're in that shaded lane creeping up and down. I see you're in those dark gray barbers weaving all round the garden. I see you're on that long road under the trees creeping along and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines. I don't blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight. I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can't do it at night for I know John would suspect something at once. And John is so weird now that I don't want to irritate you. I wish he would take another room. I don't want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself.
I often wonder if I could see you out of all the windows at once but turn as fast as I can. I can only see out of one at one time and all I always see her. She may be able to creep faster than I can turn. If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under. I mean to try. Little by little I've found out another funny thing. But I shan't tell it this time. It doesn't do to trust people too much. There are only two more days to get this paper off and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don't like the look in his eyes. I heard him ask Denny a lot of professional questions about me. He had a very good report to give. She said I slept a good deal in the daytime. John knows I don't sleep very well at night for all I'm so quiet. He asked me all sorts of questions too and pretended to be very loving and high and as if I couldn't see through him.
Still I don't wonder you act so sleeping under this paper for months. You know me interests me but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by will. This is the last day but it's enough. Johns to stay in town overnight Mobi out until this evening. Jenny want to destroy it with me. The sly thing. But I told her I should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone. That was clever. For really I wasn't alone a bit. As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to roll and shake the pattern I got up and ran to help her. I pulled in she shook I shook and she pulled and before morning we peeled off yards of. A strip about as high as my. And half around the room. And when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me I declared I would finish it today. We go wait a minute. And they're moving all my furniture down again to leave things as they were
before. Jenny looked at the wall and the bees. But I told her that I did it out of your spite at the vicious thing. She laughed and said she wouldn't mind doing it herself. But I mustn't get tired how she betrayed herself that time. But I am here and no person touches this paper but me. Not a lie. She tried to get me out of the room. It was to pay. But I said it was all quiet and empty and now that I believed I would lie down again and sleep all I could not to wake me even for dinner. I would call when I will. So now she is gone and the things are gone and there is nothing but that great bedstead nailed down with a canvas mattress we found. I quite enjoyed the room not as bare again. How those children did tear about here. This bedstead is fairly north. But I must get to I've locked the door and thrown the key down into the
front. I don't want to go out and I don't want to have anybody come in told John. I want to was done. I've got a room that even Jenny if that woman does get out and tries to get away I can't hide her. But I forgot I couldn't reach far without anything to stand on. This bed will not move. I tried to lift and push it until I was lame and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner but it hurt my teeth. Then I peeled off all the Pedro I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it. All those wrangling heads and Bobus eyes wobbling fungus grows just sure it would. I'm getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise but the bars are too strong even to draw. Besides I wouldn't do it. Course not. I know well enough that a step
like that is improper and might be misconstrued. I don't like to look out of the windows even. There are so many of those creeping women and they creep so fast. I have wonder if they all came out of that wallpapers idea. That I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope. You don't get me out in the road there. I suppose I'll have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night and that's hard. It's so pleasant to be out in this great room creep around as I please. I don't want to go outside. I won't even if Jennie asked me to from outside you have to creep on the ground and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor and my shoulder just fits in that long smooth around the wall so I can't lose my way. Why there's John to do. It's no use young man. You can't open it.
How he does call him POW. Now he's crying for an axe. It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door. John McCain is down by the front steps under a plantain leaf that silenced him for a few moments. Then he said. Open the door my door. I can't. Think he is down by the front door under up plantain Lee. And I said it again. So from. There you just in slow and said it's often that he had to go and see and he got out of course and gave me. He stopped short by the door. What is the matter. He cried. For God's sake what are you doing. I kept on gripping just the same. When I looked at him over my shoulder. I've got out at last to die in spite of you and Jane and I've pulled off most of the papers so you can't put me back
The American woman in fact and fiction
Episode Number
Episode 11 of 13
Producing Organization
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This series, written and directed by Virginia Maynard, dramatizes various stories of women from colonial times to the Twentieth century.
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Director: Maynard, Virginia
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Writer: Maynard, Virginia
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-19-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:50
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APA: The American woman in fact and fiction; Episode 11 of 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from