Setting, Symbolism and Oppression of Women in The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Yellow Wallpaper: Setting, Symbolism and Oppression of Women

Have you ever been locked in a dark closet? You grope about trying to feel the doorknob, straining to see a thin beam of light coming from underneath the door. As the darkness consumes you, you feel as if you will suffocate. There is a sensation of helplessness and hopelessness. Loneliness, caused by oppression, is like the same darkness that overtakes its victim. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in "The Yellow Wallpaper," recounts the story of a young mother who travels to a summer home to "rest" from her nervous condition. Her bedroom is an old nursery covered with ugly, yellow wallpaper. The more time she spends alone, the more she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper's patterns. She begins to imagine a woman behind bars in the paper. Finally, she loses her sanity and believes that she is the woman in the wallpaper, trying to escape. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses setting and symbolism to suggest that imprisoning oppression causes a type of loneliness (in women) that can lead to a deadly form of insanity.

Gilman uses setting to suggest that imprisoning oppression causes a type of loneliness that can lead to insanity. Gilman's young mother describes the nursery bedroom "with windows that ... [are] barred for little children" (426). In the above passage, the barred windows seem to intensify her oppression, and her perception that she is being imprisoned. Gilman also uses the young woman's description of the summer home to express her feeling of being all alone. "It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of Eng...

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...chniques that Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses in "The Yellow Wallpaper" to suggest that a type of loneliness (in women) caused by imprisoning oppression can lead to the deadliest form of insanity. By using setting, Gilman shows how the barred windows intensifies the young woman's imprisoning oppression, the isolated summer home represents the loneliness the young woman feels, and her hallucinations of the wallpaper pattern indicates her transition to insanity. Wallpaper symbolism is used throughout the story the pattern representing the strangling nature of the imprisoning oppression, the fading yellow color showing the fading away of the young woman, and the hovering smell representing the deadly insanity to which she succumbs. Like the darkness that quickly consumes, the imprisoning loneliness of oppression swallows its victim down into the abyss of insanity.
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