Questioning Sanity in Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper'

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman, writer and feminist, was witness to many major social changes in her lifetime including the Women’s movement. She spoke out in regard to evolving social orders, especially those which affected the status of women. She supported the idea that women should separate career and family yet be free to fulfill both (Women's Intellectual Contributions). The Yellow Wallpaper, the writing which followed her nervous breakdown, was a controversial piece for its time (Gilman 745). The story dives into the human psyche and takes us on a mental journey thru the silent suffering the narrator is experiencing while desperately trying to escape from her demons. The story leaves a lot of room for interpretation of what exactly these demons are-an evil spirit lurking in the shadows of a haunted house, the imprisonment experienced in her own home, or the loss of here sanity. One thing is certain, she must set herself free. The mental anguish of the narrator is very clear; when there is a need to escape the walls of torture, trying to free ourselves from these perils is often enough to drive one mad. The question is….is Gilman, in fact, describing her own lack of sanity or could she be making us, as the reader, question ours?

From the perspective of a ghost story, the narrator makes references to some “creepy” ideas early in the story, noting her first impression of the house is, “it is haunted” (Gilman 746). Beyond the aesthetics of the house, we see a level of fear overcoming the narrator in: “there is something strange about this house-I can feel it” (Gilman). What about the house makes it appear and feel haunted? Not the aesthetics of the home, but what’s inside…..inside the wallpaper. Almost immediately we see the issues...

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...r your child or perform everyday duties or have any sort of emotional or physical stimulation is mentally exhausting. Entering a world of imagination becomes stimulating for an idol mind, even if that stimulation comes in the form of wallpaper. Once depression has taken hold, it becomes very hard to find ourselves and happiness seems completely out of reach. When minds are left idol too long, they get lost. When we realize we are unable to be who we want and need to be, we look for “some sort of conclusion”, leading us thru the realms of insanity before finally finding the way out (Gilman 750).

Works Cited

"Charlotte Perkins Gilman." n.d. Webster. web article. 9 September 2011. .

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, William Cain. Literature for Composition. 2011. 746-756.
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