June 4, 2013
And now it’s time for another edition of “Classic Novel: Modern Rejection”! This one is for The Yellow Wallpaper. If you were in a Women’s Studies class in college, you probably read this delightfully unsettling novella.
Dear Miss Gilman,
Thank you for submitting your novella, THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, for our consideration. While our editors found the premise timely in light of the waning popularity of wallpaper as an interior design element in recent years, we felt that the allegory you used to depict this trend was confusing, if not deeply unsettling.
For one thing, we did not find the female protagonist to be relateable. Her inexplicable fixation on an ugly wallpaper pattern in the bedroom of her rented vacation home was baffling, and we quickly tired of it. Rather than staring at the wall, why didn’t she just pick up a book, or rent a movie? After all, she was supposed to be taking it easy! You could have at least included a few scenes where she walked on the beach with a golden retriever and threw pebbles into the ocean while pondering her unsatisfying marriage. Maybe she could have encountered a handsome stranger who challenged her to take a leap of faith and go after what she wanted most in life: the love of a good man.
We did originally think this novella showed promise, given the increasing popularity of home-makeover and other DIY-style interior decoration shows. Had the narrator perused paint chip samples at Home Depot, or learned how to use rummage-sale finds to modernize outdated wall sconces, your story might have appealed to a broader audience. But your protagonist did not even attempt to put her own unique spin on the room to turn it into a place where she would enjoy spending virtually all of her time. Though she did eventually begin ripping the wallpaper down, by that point she had already become thoroughly unlikeable. That scene should have been one of joyful liberation; instead, it was profoundly disturbing.
Overall, we felt there was a missed opportunity here. This story could have demonstrated the redemptive power of home-improvement projects; the narrator and her husband might have embarked upon a heartwarming journey as they redid that bedroom together and really made it their own, strengthening the bonds of their marriage and learning about themselves and each other in the process. We feel this would have worked far better than whatever it was you were going for here.
We appreciated the opportunity to review this submission, but it ultimately was not for us. We wish you the best of luck with it elsewhere.
H. H. Holmstead