Charlotte Gilman 's The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Gilman 's The Yellow Wallpaper

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It is not always easy to see the ties that bind us. Many people feel they are restrained some way in their everyday life. Their job, their families, the society around them, all of this holds them back. It is up to the individual to decide how to break out of their captivity. In Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane’s captivity is both physical and mental, and her struggle to break this physical captivity only reinforces her mental captivity. Her inability to recognize both of these causes her only to fall further into captivity, as her mental stability fractures.

Stockholm syndrome, as defined by the FBI, is “a psychological response of a hostage or an individual” (De Fabrique, et al. 11) where the victim will “[wind] up emotionally attached” (De Fabrique, et al. 11) to their captor. This happens, they argue, when aggressors do not physically abuse the victim, there is long, continued contact between the aggressor and the victim, and there is a high level of emotion present in the situation. All of this is precisely what is happening to Jane. She is physically trapped in a room she views as antagonizing, but she grows steadily fonder of it as she misinterprets what is causing her her pain. At first, she states that she does not “like our room a bit” (Gilman 648), but later realizes she is “getting quite fond of the big room” (Gilman 649). The FBI identifies two common characteristics in victims of Stockholm syndrome: “hostages have positive feelings for their captors [and] victims show fear, distrust, and anger toward authorities” (De Fabrique, et al. 12). Jane does both of these, the aforementioned warming up to the room, as well as beginning to normalize and rationalize her being there, believing “it is lucky John k...


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...per, she feels she is freed, and her psychosis has also reached a fever pitch. She says to John, “I’ve got out at last ... in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper so you can’t put me back!” (Gilman 656). Jane breaks free of her confinement physically but only reinforces it mentally, as she is now trapped inside a fantasy.

Jane’s physical and mental captivity are not separate. As her physical captivity grows and weighs on her more and more, her mental stability decreases, and she gets confined to a fantastical illusion. She wants to rescue the woman behind the wallpaper, but does not recognize the wallpaper might as well be a mirror. As her physical and mental containment grow, she also begins to develop stockholm syndrome. The room is her captor. Jane fails to recognize the unreality of her illusion, and because of this she falls to it.



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