The Yellow Wallpaper (1899)
Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Translated back to English from Russian translation (translated to Russian by Sergei Trofimov)
From Chapter 5
On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind.
The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.
You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.
The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions–why, that is something like it.
That is, sometimes!
There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.
When the sun shoots in through the east window–I always watch for that first long, straight ray–it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it.
That is why I watch it always.
By moonlight–the moon shines in all night when there is a moon–I wouldn’t know it was the same paper.
At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.
I didn’t realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman.
By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.
Re translated text:
In day light I notice an inconsistency – some sort of violation of the laws of graphics. This irritates me terribly! And the color is horrible! It’s unreliable! It makes me mad, but the pattern itself is what makes me suffer. It seems as if I learned it vertically and horizontally, but at the moment I shift my eyes, it performs a back somersault. And after that I do a somersault myself. It slaps you in the face, kicks you in the stomach with its leg, and steps, steps all over you! No this is just a nightmare!
The outside pattern – colorful arabesques – remind me of a fungus. Imagine a toadstool on the stumps! Endless rows of toadstools that sprout and ascend in tediously long curves – this is something that looks like the pattern. But it looks like that only sometimes! And there is something about this paper that no one besides me notices: its changes! Tiny changes!
When the sun shines through the east window – I always observe its long and straight rays- the changes happen so fast, that I can’t catch them. But I always follow them. In the moon light – and the moon in a cloudless sky shines all night – the wallpaper transform into something else! At night, in any light (at twilight, candlelight or lamplight, but the worst is the moonlight) the pattern becomes a grid. And behind the bars there is a woman who flounces out. Now I see her clearly.
I couldn’t understand for a long time, who or what is behind the grid. In the beginning it was a vague figure. But now I know, it is a woman. In the daylight she is submissive and quiet. The pattern of the wallpaper holds her still. This is actually not surprising; it holds me still for hours as well.