The Oppression of Women and The Yellow Wallpaper

Powerful Essays
The Oppression of Women and The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a fictionalized autobiographical account that illustrates the emotional and intellectual deterioration of the female narrator who is also a wife and mother. The woman, who seemingly is suffering from post-partum depression, searches for some sort of peace in her male dominated world. She is given a “rest cure” from her husband/neurologist doctor that requires strict bed rest and an imposed reprieve form any mental stimulation. As a result of her husband’s controlling edicts, the woman develops an obsessive attachment to the intricate details of the wallpaper on her bedroom wall. The woman’s increasingly intense obsession with the wallpaper ultimately leaves the reader with many questions about nineteenth-century male-female relationships, and perhaps even insanity.

Several critics have identified many significant and contrasting themes in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” For example, the contrast of the male-female relationship in the late nineteenth-century, which is an apparent link between the sex roles and seemingly oppressive sexual structures. Another significant theme is the ominous question of what lies behind the meaning of the structure and color of the wallpaper. Does it represent a symbolic realm of imagery, or a linguistic realm focusing on the identity of the spoken and written word?

More sympathetic critics like Gilbert and Gubar read “The Yellow Wallpaper” simply as a narrative of one woman’s efforts t free herself from the structured psychic, and social atmosphere—indeed, a rigidly constructed atmosphere that was very restrictive for a female of this day and time. They envisioned the wallpaper as being ...

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...Conn: Yale University Press, 1979. 89-92.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper”. From the Heath Anthology of American Literature. ed. Paul Lauter, et al. D.C. Heath and Co. MA. 1994. 800-12.

Herndl, Diane. “The Writing Cure: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Anna O. and Hysterical Writing’” NWSA Journal no. 1 1988. 52-74.

Hedges, Elaine R. “Afterward” to “The Yellow Wallpaper” Old Westbury, NY. Feminist Press 1973. 12.

Jacobus, Mary. “An Unnecessary Maze of Sign-Reading” Reading Women: Essays in Feminist Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press. 1986. 229-48.

Kolodny, Annette. “A Map for Rereading: or, Gender and the Interpretation of Literary Texts” New Literary History 11, no. 3 1980. 451-67

Treichler, Paula. “Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Tulsa studies in Women’s Literature. 1984. (75).
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