During the early 19th century and prior, women were hyper-sexualized as mediocre and suppressed by the male population. Men demanded authority by defining female roles and responsibilities in society. Although all women of time paid the price for male egotistical behaviors, mainly the middle and sometimes upper class were affected. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s critically acclaimed story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, first published in the New England Magazine, in January 1892, is a narrative study of Gilman's own nervousness (Smith). The story analyzes the injustices women faced at the hands of their husbands. The main character is diagnosed with postpartum depression, a type of depression that develops in some women after birthing a baby; and she is put on the resting cure for the summer. Gilman, like the narrator of her story, sought medical help from the famous neurologist, Dr. Weir Mitchell but receive no useful help. Gilman writes of the woman trapped by her husband’s commands when he locks her in a room, forbidden to raise her children because of her “extreme condition” (Gilman 792). The unnamed protagonist remains locked in the room upstairs for weeks, progressively getting worse because she is forced to take prescribed medicine every hour of each day (Gilman 794). She begins to scrutinize the aging and repulsive yellow wallpaper of her room and grows clinically insane as each day passes way. Gilman uses this story to critique the position of women within the institution of marriage, especially as practiced by the respectable classes of the period.
The Yellow Wallpaper from the Point of View of a Doctor's Wife
"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story told from the first person point of view of a doctor's wife who has nervous condition. The first person standpoint gives the reader access only to the woman’s thoughts, and thus, is limited. The limited viewpoint of this story helps the reader to experience a feeling of isolation, just as the wife feels throughout the story. The point of view is also limited in that the story takes places in the present, and as a result the wife has no benefit of hindsight, and is never able to actually see that the men in her life are part of the reason she never gets well. This paper will discuss how Gilman’s choice of point of view helps communicate the central theme of the story- that women of the time were viewed as being subordinate to men.
Yellow Wallpaper depicts the nervous breakdown of a young woman and is an example as well as a protest of the patriarchal gender based treatments of mental illness women of the nineteenth century were subjected to.
"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.
The Yellow Wallpaper is a story, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Although the work is short, it is one of the most interesting works in existence. Gilman uses literary techniques very well. The symbolism of The Yellow Wallpaper, can be seen and employed after some thought and make sense immediately. The views and ideals of society are often found in literary works. Whether the author is trying to show the ills of society of merely telling a story, culture is woven onto the words. The relationship between the narrator and her husband would be disagreeable to a modern woman's relationship. Today, most women crave equality with their partner. The reader never learns the name of the narrator, perhaps to give the illusion that she could be any woman. On the very fist page of The Yellow Wall-Paper, Gilman illustrates the male dominated society and relationship. It was customary for men to assume that their gender knew what, when, how, and why to do things. John, the narrator's husband, is a prominent doctor and both his and his wife's words and actions reflect the aforementioned stereotype: "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage," (9). This statement illustrates the blatant sexism of society at the time. John does not believe that his wife is sick, while she is really suffering from post-partum depression. He neglects to listen to his wife in regard to her thoughts, feelings, and health through this thought pattern. According to him, there is not anything wrong with his wife except for temporary nerve issues, which should not be serious.
Jane's Postpartum Depression in "The Yellow Wallpaper"
In the "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman describes her postpartum depression through the character of Jane. Jane was locked up for bed rest and was not able to go outside to help alleviate her nervous condition. Jane develops an attachment to the wallpaper and discovers a woman in the wallpaper. This shows that her physical treatment is only leading her to madness. The background of postpartum depression can be summarized by the symptoms of postpartum depression, the current treatment, and its prevention.
In the story "The Yellow Wallpaper," it shows very explicit symbols rather than very detailed characters. This vague description shown in this text about the author gives the overall idea of the treatment of women in the late 1800s. The representation of the symbols in "The Yellow Wallpaper," connects to women with mental illness during this time period. These symbols become essential to the story and the feminist ideas it was portraying. Symbols such as the wallpaper, John, the author, her journal, and her baby are what creates a sense of origin in her illness and how it was developed in
The Yellow Wallpaper, Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is comprised as an assortment of journal entries written in first person, by a woman who has been confined to a room by her physician husband who he believes suffers a temporary nervous depression, when she is actually suffering from postpartum depression. He prescribes her a “rest cure”. The woman remains anonymous throughout the story. She becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper that surrounds her in the room, and engages in some outrageous imaginations towards the wallpaper. Gilman’s story depicts women’s struggle of independence and individuality at the rise of feminism, as well as a reflection of her own life and experiences.
When first reading the gothic feminist tale, “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, one might assume this is a short story about a women trying to save her sanity while undergoing treatment for postpartum depression. Gilman herself had suffered post-natal depression and was encouraged to undergo the “rest cure” to cure her hysteria. The treatment prescribed to Gilman resulted in her having a very similar experience as the narrator in the short story. The “perfect rest” (648), which consisted of forced bed rest and isolation sparked the inspiration for “The Yellow Wallpaper.” This story involving an unreliable narrator, became an allegory for repression of women. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman illustrates the seclusion and oppression of women in the nineteenth century society by connecting the female imprisonment, social and mental state, and isolation to the objects in and around the room.
Charlotte Perkin Gilman as a woman living in 19th century America, provides powerful insight into the mistreatment of women at the time in her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The narrative is told from the perspective of Jane whose oppressive relationship with her husband causes her to descend into madness.