Symbolism Inherent in "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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Upon first reading Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper", it appears to be consecutive journal entries written by a flighty woman-plagued with bouts of depression-about her stay at a vacation home. Though upon closer inspection, the double entendre of this cleverly written story reveals itself. Symbolism is the element that plays the starring role in this production, coyly divulging the clues necessary to illuminate the reality of her psychosis. The physical triggers of said psychosis belong solely to the room she and her husband slept in; now a playroom, it had obviously gone through many other transformations as had this woman, who despised it (nursery, gym, playroom). More importantly, it is the wallpaper that has caught and held her mind's eye. "It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough constantly to irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide-plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradiction." With a little imagination and logic, it becomes obvious what the offensive wallpaper personifies: The woman herself. The contrast between how She sees herself and how the rest of the world sees Her can create extreme emotional strain; add on the fact that She hails from the early 1900s and it becomes evident that, though her mental construct is not necessarily prepared to understand the full breach against Her, She is still capable of some iota of realization. The discrimination encountered by a female during this time period is great and unceasing. A closer inspection of the interior design/condition of the room illustrates that: "The furniture in this room is no worse than... ... middle of paper ... ... end, she begins to tear off as much of the paper as possible, in hopes of uncovering a way out for the "woman caught within the walls." (This woman is yet another facet of the original main character, the trapped and weak version.) The climax is illustrated and clarified through the symbolic tearing or exposing of the bare walls. She wants to free the woman within, yet ends up trading places, or becoming, that "other" woman completely. Her husband's reaction only serves as closure to her psychotic episode, forcing him into the unfortunate realization that she has been unwell this whole time. There are more clues and subtle hints that reinforce these statements, most correlating to her mental illness and self-perception. The statements made through the use of said symbolism turns this story into an interesting viewpoint of a psychological breakdown.

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