The Bedroom inThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
451 Words2 Pages
The Yellow Wallpaper - The Bedroom
As the story progresses in, The Yellow Wallpaper, it is as if the space of the bedroom turns in on itself, folding in on the body as the walls take hold of it, epitomizing the narrator's growing intimacy with control. Because the narrator experiences the bedroom in terms of John's draconian organization, she relies on her prior experiences of home in an attempt to allay the alienation and isolation the bedroom creates. Recalling her childhood bedroom, she writes, "I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend . . . I could always hop into that chair and feel safe" (Gilman 17). Ironically, Gilman's narrator cannot retire to the otherwise "personal haven" of the bedroom because she is always already there, enclosed within the attic room of John's desires, bereft of her own voice and personal history. The narrator's imagination is altogether problematic for John, who would prohibit his wife from further fancifulness: "[John] says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try" (Gilman 15-16). For Gaston Bachelard, who devotes himself to a phenomenological exploration of the home in The Poetics of Space, "imaginative power" is the nucleus of the home, if not the home itself. Memories of prior dwellings are for Bachelard a fundamental aspect of creating new homes based on a continuity with the past and past spaces. "[B]y approaching the house images with care not to break up the solidarity of memory and imagination," writes Bachelard, "we may hope to make others feel all the psychological elasticity of an image that moves us at an unimaginable depth" (6). Bachelard's "elasticity" infers that spatial depth and expansion are contingent upon a psychological flexibility of imagination. Gilman's narrator is notably denied this elasticity when her physician/husband attempts to prevent her from writing. "I did write for a while in spite of them," the narrator explains, "but it does exhaust me a good deal--having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition" (Gilman 10).