Madness in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins

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An Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper” “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins is one of the most famous portrayals of madness in 19th century literature; taking the form of a woman’s diary who is receiving treatment for mental illness. She records her experiences and her mental life as she descends into complete mania. Perkins details this experience of insanity and how her condition is aggravated by her peers. The story reveals Perkins’ view of androcentrism regarding the antiquated gender roles of her era. Perkins describes a rocky relationship between her narrator and her husband. John has a respectable social position as a doctor and is therefore put in a position of authority. This is made clear in the lines: “If a physician of high standing...assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression…what is one to do?” (Perkins 76) Perkins puts her narrator in a position in which she is surrounded by male authority figures who restrict her will and social nature. Perkins makes it clear that social rules, which the narrator's husband attempts to protect, are responsible for aggravating her illness. From the choice of room to expression of her own feelings, the narrator is consistently denied the chance to act upon her own desires and to have them validated by the people around her. The sense of both duty towards and dependency on her husband is a dominate theme in the story. Mental illness is both denied and caused by the social relations of which she does get to participate. As the story progresses, Perkins contrasts the relative coldness of those surrounding her narrator with the life she finds in the wallpaper: “I never saw so much expression in an inanimat... ... middle of paper ... ... tragedy of the story however, is that the narrator will certainly be put into permanent internment, as her peers will seek to assert their own opinions with more directly. In conclusion, “Yellow Wallpaper” presents a situation in which its narrator is subject to controlling, rationalistic logic by male authority figures and is incapable of responding to her own needs. The result of this is the steady descent into madness as she projects the life which is absent from her social relations onto inanimate objects around her. Throughout this, her husband and friends stand as both reactions to and causes of this behavior. Works Cited Perkins, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper” Literature: A Portable Anthology. Eds. Janet E. Gardner, Beverly Lawn, Jack Ridl and Peter Schakel. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2013. 76-89. Print.
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