In the thrilling short story, “The Yellow-Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman captivates readers and critics through many literary techniques, including a distinctive discourse, a first person perspective of neurosis, and an array of symbolic overtones. However, while these other approaches provide highly educational insight, there is another perspective of Gilman’s story that Heidi Scott, a professor at the University of Maryland, offers: the application of ecology. She writes in her journal article, “Crazed Nature: Ecology in The Yellow Wall-Paper,” how the unnamed narrator taps into her animalistic instinct and allows for her body to adapt to the new ecological surroundings. In order to best understand Scott’s analysis, I will explore a brief summary of the story and Gilman’s life, the different ecologies that the narrator experiences, the transformation from one to the other, and the strengths and weaknesses of Scott’s argument. Gilman’s main character can be simply read as a woman’s sanity dissipating, but there is substantial evidence for a deeper understanding of the narrator’s transition.
The short story was published in 1892 by a thirty-two year old Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote it semi-autobiographically on her postpartum depression (Harrison). Tied together with feminism, Gilman’s story takes on the humiliation of social codes by illustrating a woman who is put to bed rest after giving birth and must stay put away per her husband and brother’s requests. Gilman works through the narrator to show how the woman slowly fades from the realistic world and into a new one by way the yellow wallpaper. The room becomes her reality and the world outside her ...
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...Gilman 1677). And as her transition into the new world continues, she experiences in one instance the walls laughing at her, which displays her acceptance of the personification of the wallpaper. Scott calls her a creature protecting her territory and camouflaging into the setting, which insinuates that the new world calls for animalistic, survival instinct rather than abiding by social norms (201-202).
Along with the descriptions of the room, the new ecological situation pulls the narrator in line with other occupants. In Scott’s article, she elaborates on the transformation of the narrator, individually, but more so, her case in similarity with other previous occupants (201-202). There are many instances where Gilman writes through the narrator the personality of the wall coming to life, including its eyes bugging out and the figure of a woman behind the lattice.
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