A Women's Struggle for Control in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Better Essays
The story "The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story about control. In the late 1800's, women were looked upon as having no effect on society other than bearing children and keeping house. It was difficult for women to express themselves in a world dominated by males. The men held the jobs, the men held the knowledge, the men held the key to the lock known as society . . . or so they thought. The narrator in "The Wallpaper" is under this kind of control from her husband, John. Although most readers believe this story is about a woman who goes insane, it is actually about a woman’s quest for control of her life.

The narrator is being completely controlled by her husband. The narrator's husband has told the her over and over again that she is sick. She sees this as control because she cannot tell him differently. He is a physician so he knows these things. She also has a brother who is a physician, and he says the same thing. In the beginning of the story, she is like a child taking orders from a parent. Whatever these male doctors say must be true. The narrator says, "personally, I disagree with their ideas" (480), and it is clear she does not want to accept their theories but has no other choice. She is controlled by her husband.

Control is exemplified later in the story in the choice of rooms in which she must stay. She has no say whatsoever in this decision. She is forced to stay in a room she is uncomfortable with. This is the bedroom in which John has trapped her; this room is not a room in which she wants to be. The windows are barred and the bed is bolted down. This is a subliminal clue of control. And there is the horrible yellow wallpaper. "I never saw worse paper in my life" (482), she says. She...

... middle of paper ...

...houghts. And the wallpaper no longer oppresses her. As time goes on, she gains confidence and control over both and ultimately dominates them.

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Rediscoveries: American Short Stories by Women, 1832 - 1916. Ed. Barbara H. Solomon. New York: Mentor, 1994. 480-496.

Delamotte, Eugenia C. reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism Vol. 37. Ed. Paula Kepos. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991.

Works Consulted

Treichler, Paula. "Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in 'The Yellow Wallpaper'." Rpt. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism Vol. 37. Detroit: Gale 1991. 188-194.

Shumaker, Conrad. "Too Terribly Good to Be Printed: Charlotte Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper'." reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism Vol. 37. Ed. Paula Kepos. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991. 194-198.
Get Access