A Feminist in Action in The Yellow Wallpaper

"The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, depicts a woman in isolation, struggling to cope with mental illness, which has been diagnosed by her husband, a physician. Going beyond this surface level, the reader sees the narrator as a developing feminist, struggling with the societal values of the time. As a woman writer in the late nineteenth century, Gilman herself felt the adverse effects of the male-centric society, and consequently, placed many allusions to her own personal struggles as a feminist in her writing. Throughout the story, the narrator undergoes a psychological journey that correlates with the advancement of her mental condition. The restrictions which society places on her as a woman have a worsening effect on her until illness progresses into hysteria. The narrator makes comments and observations that demonstrate her will to overcome the oppression of the male dominant society. The conflict between her views and those of the society can be seen in the way she interacts physically, mentally, and emotionally with the three most prominent aspects of her life: her husband, John, the yellow wallpaper in her room, and her illness, "temporary nervous depression." In the end, her illness becomes a method of coping with the injustices forced upon her as a woman. As the reader delves into the narrative, a progression can be seen from the normality the narrator displays early in the passage, to the insanity she demonstrates near the conclusion.

As the story begins, the narrator's compliance with her role as a submissive woman is easily seen. She states, "John laughs at me, but one expects that in marriage" (Gilman 577). These words clearly illustrate the male's position of power in a marriage t...

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..., Gilman acknowledges the fact that much work is needed to overcome the years of injustice. Through the concluding scenes where the narrator goes into her mental illness rebellion, Gilman encourages women to do what they can to stand up for themselves.

Works Cited

Mahin, Michael J. The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper: "An Intertextual Comparison of the "Conventional" Connotations of Marriage and Propriety." Domestic Goddesses (1999). Web. 29 June 2015.

Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. “A Feminist Reading of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” The Story and Its Writer. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Web. 27 June 2015.
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