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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Yellow Wallpaper

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 26 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d428
  1. Omar Mukhtar, specialist registrar in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, King’s College Hospital, London
  1. om1979{at}

The short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a stirring, if exaggerated, account of the personal experiences of its author, the American writer and sociologist Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). It has been repeatedly adapted for the stage and the small screen—most recently serving as the inspiration for a production at the Edinburgh fringe festival in 2009.

Written as a series of journal entries, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is set against the backdrop of recent childbirth. Shortly after the birth of her daughter the protagonist develops depression and fatigue. Her husband, John, himself a physician, determines that his wife has “neurasthenia” and, convinced by …

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