Memoir or fiction?

On page 31 of The Elements of Autobiography and Life Narratives Catherine Hobbes tells us to ‘reflect now!’ on something we have read that provoked controversy over issues of genre. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a favorite story of mine and has been ever since my English 112 class analyzed it last semester. While we spent a much shorter time on the story, my American literature class also just finished studying the piece. Perhaps that is why this story came immediately to mind when asked to identify a story that might fall under creative nonfiction or memoir, and fiction. It’s true that Gilman temporarily suffered from a form of postnatal depression, and it could be argued that “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an account of what she felt during her sickness. On the other hand, some of the story may be exaggerated or created for the good of the story. But how much, exactly, did she fictionalize? If you read the article “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’” you see that Gilman did suffer from severe depression and was directed to stay home and avoid work, so the basis of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is there, and you don’t know for sure how much of the suffering the narrator in the story went through was the same as Gilman. So, was the story a memoir of sorts of Gilman’s bout with depression, or just a creative piece of fiction with a slight resemblance to autobiography?

I personally believe, like such as… (sorry, Miss Teen South Carolina) that “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a piece of fiction, especially after reading her article explaining why. Granted, that would make it a piece of fiction largely drawn and influenced from the author’s own experiences, but she alters it enough so that the writing can take on a life of its own and stand as a symbol of feminism and the women’s rights movement of the late 19th, early 20th century. Gilman was, after all, an active participant in social reform movements.