May 14 2013
For more than a century, readers have interpreted Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a story about hysteria and women’s struggle to achieve freedom. Critics debate whether the narrator’s madness creates or is brought on by the reality she lives in. But there are other ways we can pick at the narrator’s brain. The narrator evidently has a condition known as synesthesia, a phenomenon where the brain perceives a stimulus in a sensory modality (or in modalities) that in most people it does not. This explains why she describes the yellow color of her bedroom wallpaper in terms of smell.
In the following web pages we will learn about the difference between literal and literary synesthesia, explore evidence for literal synesthesia as a real phenomenon, examine evidence for the narrator’s synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” analyze the author’s use of literary synesthesia, and draw connections between literary synesthesia, the narrator’s literal synesthesia, and Gilman’s critique of patriarchy.
Artwork by Corey R. Tabor, formatted from original to fit page.
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