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The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

During the time when Gilman was growing up, women had defined domestic roles and their husbands were the dominating force. In turn, there were women who gained a voice and defied the oppressive male community; one of those voices being Gilman’s. Locked away in a mental and physical prison of her husband’s machination, the protagonist of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is the embodiment of the struggles faced by women seeking freedom from the restraints placed upon them by men. The narrator remains nameless throughout the story in order to depict the wife as a figurative representation of women in society; women were treated lesser than that of males. In the story, this nameless woman is the wife of a “physician of high standing” (Gilman, 1), and has a “[brother who is also a physician] of high standing” (1). The wife is oppressed in a big, airy nursery by her oppressive, but well-meaning husband because she is suffering from a “temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency” (1). She was actually suffering from what is known today as postpartum depression. Throughout the story, the wife is not treated as an equal. Her opinions and physical activity is constantly oppressed and dismissed by the husband. The story portrays John’s dominance over his wife. As well, her deteriorating sanity is evidence that the male discourse is not superior and, therefore, enforces feminist pedagogy. In addition, the environment in which the wife is oppressed represents the dominance forced upon her by her husband. The feminist literary lens addresses the imprisonment of women, and the imbalance of power between the two genders.

During the whole of the story, John portrays his male dominant characteristics by treating th...

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...power struggle. The Yellow Wallpaper has profound symbolism that transcends from Gilman’s personal life. The dominance of John’s over the wife’s is a clear reflection of the dominant differences between men and women in the past. Through the interaction between the characters, and the wife’s inner thoughts, one can say that the women during the time period had very little or no freedom of speech. As well, the confined surroundings around the wife represent how oppressed and imprisoned women were physically and mentally. Gilman’s feminist writing of The Yellow Wallpaper gained her a little bit of that power and freedom she so desired. Gender roles and power differences must be removed from the social order for women to ever be free and equal to those of men—only then will social harmony prosper.

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Print.
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