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Sheena McKinney

Genetically Modified Literature

Based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman's

"The Yellow Wall Paper"

The Woman Inside


My prison has stood empty for so long. It is not that I mind the silence or the dark, things are so muffled inside here anyways; but there is no hope when there is no one about. There is no possibility for me to escape when I am alone, because you see, I need someone else to help me get out of here. The pattern on the wallpaper is a living, thriving vine that twines and strangles every time I try to break free. And I have tried many times, only for it to wrap me up in its embrace, rendering me inert and exhausted. Not only that, but even if I could get past that pattern, in order for me to stay outside the wallpaper I must put someone back into it, or else that pattern would drag me back in. The pattern you see, can be very clever in its complex designs, yet it is quite blind when it comes to its embraces. It needs only a body to hold. There have been others, others who have gotten out and now inhabit the world outside. I long to get out too, and creep in the garden with them.

So when I heard the familiar tread on the stairs outside of this room, when I heard the voices speaking outside the locked door, I knew that this would be the time. This would be the time when I would get out for good. I have come close before, close enough to smell the air on the other side of this yellow putrification. But someone always comes and musses up my plans, usually just as I am about to push someone else into my place in the pattern.

This is not to say that every person who has been placed in this room was a proper candidate to help me out, mind you. Obviously the ones who were restrained, either physically by those horrid straps and rings, or mentally with pills and shocks and surgeries, were of no use. But even the ones who were free to move about, and coherent enough to do so, they must have a certain intelligence, a certain amount of their wits left about them, and a certain perception as well. You see, the pattern is deceptive to most people. Especially to those who have no imagination, those tied up in their science and their reason, and their rationality. But to those with the right imagination, with the right ability to see, they can see me behind this pattern as clearly as people can see the sun.

From the first time that the woman came into my room, I knew that she would be the one. She began to talk from the very start about the grotesque wallpaper. Not in a dismissive way, as one might talk about musty curtains or a badly colored dress, but in such a way that I knew she saw the horror of the pattern. At first, she would just follow the pattern with her eyes as she lay down to go to sleep, or in between writing. But soon she began to watch more intently. I knew that it was time to show myself.

I would press my body against the wallpaper, pushing against it, showing myself to her. I would grab hold of the pattern and shake them, as I had seen people do at the bars of the windows so many times. Sometimes she would lay her hand against me, but it was as if the pattern knew what I was up to, and it would hold me still in its clutches.

The woman was not the only one that noticed though, although the others did not do so as profoundly as her. There was the maid girl who realized that I had been getting at their clothes, leaving traces of yellow on them. But in her rational mind she could not know that it was really me, she just assumed that the woman or the man had brushed up against an inanimate wall. The man would sometimes stand and stare at me, because the woman talked of me so much. But as a man of science he could not see me any more than the maid could.

Only the woman could help me, only the woman knew who I was and what I needed. All that I could do is sit and wait for her to figure out how to do it. I had heard her and the man talking that they would not be staying indefinitely, only for a short amount of time. I only hoped that she would understand in time. As the days wore down, I began to lose hope. Perhaps she would not figure it out after all. But then, and this is the part of the story I most relish, the woman had an epiphany! She figured it out at last, that the paper must be pulled off the wall entirely, and that then, and only then, could I be released for good. With only two days left she began to pull the wallpaper off in great swatches; and with each inch I could breath a little easier.

The woman worked and worked at it for a whole day, the maid and the man had left her alone, thank goodness. I was so excited by the whole thing that I just ran around and around inside, waiting for the moment when the last of it would be pulled off and I would be free.

I got quite a fright toward the end, as the man came home and started to bang upon the door. I thought that the woman's hard work would all be for naught. Furthermore, I knew this despicably rational man would not let her continue if she were found out. But the clever woman had thrown the key to the door out of the window, so that by the time the man listened to her, and got the key, and unlocked the door, the woman had finished. When the last of the wallpaper had been pulled off, I stepped out into the room, triumphant. When the man came in, he was so surprised to see my there that he fainted dead away. But that is no matter to me.

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