Insanity as Rebellion in Gilman's 'The Yellow Paper'

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Are asylums meant to shelter the affected persons or to help society flee away from abnormalities that are inevitable in human life? What are the consequences of keeping a person kept captive behind these so called ‘shelters’? These questions are some of the many that are inquired in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Within the lines of the obscure plot in this short story, the author makes it clear that the unnamed protagonist was not, in fact, insane or suffering from a definitive disease or mental malfunction. However, this ‘mental disorder’ is only a way that the narrator actively rebels against society and how patriarchy has restricted her into becoming a heap of insecure thoughts.

In the introduction of the story the unnamed narrator describes her ‘illness’ and the ‘conditions’ she faces, however through the analysis of her writing she begins to reveal the oppression that she is forced to submit to. Much of the protagonist’s oppression comes from her husband, as he does not believe she is sick at all. Because she is timid and is subdued by her spouse she believes, like the rest of society, that a male’s qualifications can automatically make him right. The narrator tends to question her husband’s view, but then covers it up with his credentials in her private journal entries, “You see he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?” (Gilman Wallpaper, 1) This is only the beginning of the oppression and the beginning of the narrator’s rebellion against a society controlled by men. The au...

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Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'." The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on "The Yellow Wallpaper,". Ed. Catherine Golden. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1992. 51-53. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 62. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 10 Feb. 2012.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. [New York]: Feminist, 1973. Print.

Knight, Denise D. "'I am getting angry enough to do something desperate': The Question of Female 'Madness.'." "The Yellow Wall-Paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Dual-Text Critical Edition. Ed. Shawn St. Jean. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006. 73-87. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 201. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 10 Feb. 2012.
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