Social Criticism Of The Yellow Wallpaper

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote, “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the first person as a journal in the 19th century not with the intent to drive people crazy, but as social criticism, against the haunting psychological horrors of a doctor’s error in treatment of women using the “rest cure,” during this time. Gilman was a women’s right activist, wife, mother, and author who illustrates how women where submissive to male authority and did not have rights during this male dominated era in society. She believed women’s lives were not only controlled, but also limited preventing them from experiencing anything outside the home hindering their creative and intellectual development. Writing was one of the only forms of survival for women during this period.…show more content…
John her insensitive husband and physician has prescribed a “rest cure” treatment for his wife. John rents a summer mansion so his wife can recuperate in solitude, doing nothing active and forbids her to write. The narrator feels that activity and exciting work would help her condition, so she secretly writes in her journal to relieve her mind. Unfortunately, she is confined to bed rest in a large sunlit former nursery, which has an immovable bed, bars over the windows, and walls decorated in hideous yellow torn wallpaper with an eerie chaotic pattern. Jennie, John’s sister is the housekeeper, but her most important job is to keep an eye on her sister-in-law making sure she follows John’s strict daily regimen of doing nothing. Several weeks later, the narrator’s condition worsens and she feels nervous, depressed, fatigued, and lacks energy to write in her secret journal. The narrator’s only stimulation is spending hours studying the perplexing pattern of the wallpaper. She becomes obsessed with the repulsive wallpaper, as the image of the figures creeping around behind the wallpaper becomes clearer each day. Late one night the moonlight reveals the figures of women trapped behind the bars. Each night the women in the wallpaper shake the bars and try to break through, but fail in their attempt. The…show more content…
Additional themes include how marriage kept women in a childlike passive state, the importance of self-expression and communication, the mental oppression against women, and the relationship of reading the wallpaper as text. There was a strict distinction between the female’s function in the home and the dynamic works of the male, ensuring women remain second-class citizens as domestic homemakers. “During this time, men typify rationalism and realism, while women had imagination, creating conflict and tension of opposing forces” (Wiedemann). John believes he has the superior knowledge, misjudges and dominates his wife, which is abusive, all in the name of “helping” her. As a result, the narrator forcibly becomes completely passive and hides her fears in order to preserve the pretense of a happy marriage. Virtually, the narrator has no identity left because her role as mother and wife has been taken from her. The mental restraints placed on the narrator by John’s demeaning, authoritative ways, and the way he views her as only a homemaker not an imaginative thinker stifles her individuality and ultimately destroys her. In reality, John really does not know his wife, only superficially, and he treats her like a medical case instead of his loving
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