Symbolism In The Yellow Wallpaper

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Annie Deng ENG 101-L80 Essay 1 The Results of Patriarchic Suppression The "Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is an example of how women were repressed by society in the nineteenth century. The narrator is an upper-middle class woman who is likely to be suffering from post-partum depression, but due to an ineffective cure, she starts to go insane. The narrator’s husband, John, assumed that because he was a physician, he knew best and dominated her actions. She then retreats into her obsession with the wallpaper on the walls, the only thing she can control. Her craze for the wallpaper begins when she imagines a woman behind the bars, and eventually leads to her ripping the woman and the wallpaper off the walls completely, symbolizing her exit from oppression. The narrator’s eventual insanity was the result of the repression brought on by the patriarchic society and the suppression of her imaginative power. The authoritative voices of her husband and other doctors urge her to be voiceless and passive. John’s assumption of his own superior knowledge and maturity leads him to misjudge and control his wife, all in the name of helping her. He did not realize the severity of her condition and instructed her to instead take a break with the country air and so he isolates her. She was given the “rest cure” women were frequently prescribed in the nineteenth century; a time of complete isolation with no forms of creative outlets for the mind. The connection between the compliance of the narrator under her role in the family and under a doctor is clear- where her silent compliance had led to bad consequences. She states, "If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really no... ... middle of paper ... ...wallpaper was the mirror of her freedom from oppression. She continues to stride over her husband, suggesting that she was overstepping the patriarchy and what had controlled her in the past. Charlotte Gilman explained the requirement and use for self-expression by showing its importance to the protagonist. The message is clear that the oppressive nature of the nineteenth century and its patriarchic ways is not a healthy way for all members of a society to live. The restrictions of her every day creative and active duties caused her to be overly obsessive with the room she was encased in. It became evident that the more detailed her obsession became, the further she fell into her insanity. By symbolizing the protagonist’s descent into psychosis after the rest cure, Gilman illustrates that imagination and expressive freedom are important to every one of both sexes.
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