Charlotte Perkins Gilman 's The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman 's The Yellow Wallpaper

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Hidden away in her husband’s interpretation of care, the unnamed protagonist of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is the embodiment of the struggles faced by women in 19th century America who are seeking freedom of thought from their male counterparts. Presented as, and widely seen and accepted as, a psychological horror or thriller story, it is apparent from a feminist point of view that it is a depiction of the state of women in the 19th century, and perhaps even of the author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who herself struggled living in a society run by males. This theme is made clear through the strength of John (the protagonist’s husband) as a character, the thoughts and writing of the unnamed narrator within her secret journal, and the environment in which she is forcibly placed. All together, these factors describe the imprisonment of women in the domestic sphere and gilded cage that they were expected to exist in and the control held over them by men.
Early on we the readers come to find that John is the epitome of a dominating spouse. He treats his wife as an inferior and as though she is nothing more than an object in their marriage, “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage” (Gilman 1). In John’s mind his wife’s ideas and thoughts aren’t important enough to be taken seriously, and thus never gives her a second thought when she begins to mention her thoughts on the house and her deteriorating mental state. It is also clear from this statement that John’s wife brushes off his laughter because it is what is expected in society. Men are to take the thoughts and sayings of women with a grain of salt and dismiss them in order for their own ideologies to shine through and become what is predom...


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...erself from the strangeness of its pattern.
This all leads to the image of the creeping woman who is trapped behind the paper. The narrator’s mind is not freed until the end of the story, when she has peeled most of the paper from the walls of the room thus freeing herself from her husband, the house, the room, the wallpaper and societal norms, "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). By accepting her thoughts and freeing herself from the paper that is her domestic marriage life the narrator has now become the one in charge of her own life and gains the power to resist further oppression from anyone else. The realization that she governs herself is a major shift in the narrator’s character, as she is coming to terms with herself while simultaneously descending further into madness.

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