Effects of 19th Century Society’s View of Women on the Narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Effects of 19th Century Society’s View of Women on the Narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper”

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a literary exaggeration of Gilman’s personal battle with depression that exploits not only the flaws in the perception of depression in the late 1800s but the flaws in that society’s views on women as well. Set up in a diary format, the entry document a three month stay at a secluded mansion where the narrator’s physician husband John, who has told friends and relatives that there is “really nothing the matter with [his wife],” has brought her in on the sabbatical, of sorts, in hopes of treating her “nervous depression” (394, par.10). The diary format comes from the fact that the narrator is not openly allowed to write or “work” as part of her treatment. The ledger becomes her secret confidante and as well as a map of how her depression becomes a full blown psychosis. Having been instructed by her husband not to focus on her illness she sets her sights on the yellow “flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin” on the wallpaper of the converted attic/nursery that John has commandeered as their bedroom for the summer (395, par. 34). As the narrator forces herself into submission in the presents of her husband and his sister Jennie, her depression seem so transform into a state of paranoid hallucinations fueled by her obsession with the yellow wallpaper. Finally the inward turmoil manifest it’s self in a very outward way and erupts into full on madness with the narrator believing she is the woman that she has seen in the wallpaper trying to escape. Having noted the slow decline of the narrator from imaginative and independent to submissive and secretive strikes a personal cord with me, as I to have suffered with depression in my personal life. I plan to identify...


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Treichler, Paula A. “Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in "The Yellow Wallpaper".” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Vol. 3, No. 1/2, Feminist Issues in Literary Scholarship (Spring - Autumn, 1984), pp. 61-77. JSTOR. Pulaski Technical College Library, AR. 22 Nov. 2011.

Wiedemann, Barbara. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Short Fiction: A Critical Companion. 1997. Literary Reference Center. EBSCOhost. Pulaski Technical College Library, AR. 22 Nov. 2011.

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