The Yellow Wallpaper

Satisfactory Essays
We Must Creep to be Heard

It’s 2:00am and I cannot sleep. I toss and turn while the question, “Why didn’t you stand up for yourself?” keeps playing over and over in my mind. The picture in my mind of a subjugated woman who feebly attempts to fight against feminine oppression and her impending insanity is vivid and disturbing and continues to slap against the recesses of my mind with an angry hand. What was Charlotte Perkins Gilman attempting to convey to her readers when she wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” and created the characters of the narrator, her husband John, Mary and her sister-in-law Jennie? Obviously, in an exaggerated version of her own experience with post-partum depression and its prescribed “rest cure”, Gilman speaks of a world in which the female is forced into a role of the submissive counterpart to male dominance. In the following pages, I will describe how Gilman has effectively created characters that draw us into their view of control, dominance and frustrated silence against imprisonment in a paternalistic society, and how we are given a view into a perfectly healthy mind that goes awry.
To begin with, Gilman created the narrator as a nearly anonymous identity; we know her only as John’s wife. This power imbalance extends to other areas of their relationship. John dominates her in a progressively patronizing manner. His character is displayed as strong, practical and stereotypically masculine and he seems skeptical of her seemingly weak, feminine condition. John diagnoses her problem, and prescribes the “rest cure” he believes she needs. The narrator has no say in her condition, and when she attempts to speak her mind, he treats her like a child and makes light of her voice. “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that” (An Introduction to Fiction 572) which illustrates the role women are expected to play and accept in a marriage. Another main function Gilman gave of John’s control over the narrator is his inhibiting of her writing. Although she believes writing would help her condition, as I’m sure Gilman did, John insists it would only debilitate her ailment further. He stifles her creativity and intellect, forcing her into the role of the submissive wife. She is forced to hide her writings, which frustrate her more “I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (572).
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