This Bennison Books edition of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, includes a new 700-word introduction and brief author biography, plus an additional story by the author: If I Were a Man. The archetypal ‘mad woman in the attic’ is surely Bertha who was confined and hidden away from the world by her husband Edward Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847).
But Bertha’s story did not end when she committed suicide; other women took her place. While Bertha is not allowed to speak for herself (until Jean Rhys gives her voice in Wide Sargasso Sea published in 1966), the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper appears keen to have her ailments recognised. Although her husband is a physician, she asserts early on: ‘You see he does not believe I am sick!’ Is she sick? If so, in what way? Is sickness the only label available to characterise her nascent rebellion against society’s strictures regarding the place of women in nineteenth century society? Or does her self-diagnosis foreshadow her later descent into psychological disorder?