In Charlotte Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, she portrays the true importance of individualism in desperate times of need. In the story, Gilman depicts the unraveling of an unstable woman battling what could be postpartum depression. The narrator and her husband John, who also happens to be her physician, move into a rental home for the summer so that she is able to rest and recover. Shortly, she finds herself frequently examining the pattern of a hideous yellow wallpaper that resides in her room. What begins as a curious observation, soon leads to a frightening obsession of the wallpaper. The narrator’s growing fascination of the wallpaper is symbolic because, it portrays how she is slowly disconnecting from reality: Her first observations signify an objective overview of her not coming to terms with her condition; gradually she begins to sympathize with “the woman” stuck behind the wallpaper; and eventually she identifies herself completely as the woman trapped within the wallpaper.
From the very beginning, the narrator makes it clear that it is difficult for her to come to terms with her condition. At one point, she recalls what John advises her not to do, “John says the very worst thing to do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad” (470). At this time, we see that she is not given the freedom she needs to cope with what would actually suppress her anxieties. Rather, she is ordered to lay around all day and do nothing but rest, ultimately what drives depressed people insane. Conversely, she states in her journal, “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (470). This is in fact what she needs to ...
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...ent of the story, she says, “I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder. ‘I’ve got out at last’ said I ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!’” (482). She has freed herself at last and as a result has gone mad.
All throughout the story, Gilman uses the wallpaper as a symbol to indicate the narrator’s disconnection from reality. First, she shows us how the narrator refuses to face her situation by directing her full attention to the wallpaper. Then, progressively, Gilman illustrates how the narrator and “the woman” are in many ways similar because they both share the same situation, the lack of freedom. At last, Gilman reveals that “the woman” was, undeniably, the narrator trapped within her own mind. Thus, the wallpaper symbolizes the oppression that kept the narrator from liberation.
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