“She Didn’t Know I Was in the Room”: The Effects of Hatfield’s Illustrations on Readers’ Interpretations of “The Yellow Wallpaper”
When Charlotte Gilman's short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," was first published in New England Magazine in 1892, staff illustrator Joseph Hatfield created three realistic-style images to accompany the text. Research suggests that Gilman had no control or influence over these images, which altered readers' perception of her story about the dangers of the rest cure for female hysteria. While Hatfield faced artistic limitations and his intentions are not discoverable today, the choices and details in his illustrations support interpretations of the short story as a piece of horror fiction in which his cohesive series of images is a more reliable source than the verbal text. By omitting details that are emphasized in Gilman's text, Hatfield’s illustrations support the interpretation that the protagonist—who supposedly describes the same setting as the one shown in the images—is an unreliable narrator with delusions leading her to exaggerate her captivity. By extension, for original audiences, the images suggest that the protagonist’s mental illness is caused, at least in part, by her own failure to abide by the rest cure, rather than being caused by the oppressive circumstances about which Gilman sought to warn readers.
"“She Didn’t Know I Was in the Room”: The Effects of Hatfield’s Illustrations on Readers’ Interpretations of “The Yellow Wallpaper”."
The Downtown Review.
Available at: https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/tdr/vol9/iss2/3
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