The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Many intellectual artists, who are widely acclaimed for their literary work, live in a world characterized by “progressive insanity” (Gilman 20). Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one such individual. A writer during the early 20th century, Gilman suffered from bouts of deep depression, due part to her dissatisfaction with the limitations of her role as wife and mother. Her writing, particularly her famous story “The Yellow Wallpaper” reflects experiences from her personal life. In doing so, “she achieved some control over both her illness and her past” (Lane 128). Many people still admire the fact that Gilman wrote her piece “to save people from being driven crazy;” however, perhaps she wrote the story to rescue herself from the psychological distress that she often suffered. (Gilman 20)

Many people find the conclusion of “The Yellow Wallpaper” problematic because the protagonist ends up insane. Others, however, have offered an alternative reading of the story, one which posits that the protagonist’s response to her profoundly oppressive situation is perhaps the most “normal” and “healthy” response to her. Clearly Gilman had a great deal to say about the restrictions placed on women in the early 20th century. “The Yellow Wallpaper” explores a young woman’s gradual psychological demise. In doing so, however, readers may also observe the gradual liberation of a woman.

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator who is suffering from depression, takes a trip to the country for the summer, with her husband and their baby. Her husband has diagnosed his wife’s condition as merely “a temporary nervous depression” (Gilman 4) and he decides to move her to a nursery that is located at the top of the house. She is surrounded by ugly yellow wallpaper and barred windows. Disturbed by the wallpaper, she asks her husband for another room or different wallpaper; however, he refuses. The woman becomes increasingly unhappy as she is forced t occupy a room that she despises. In this deprived environment, the pattern of the wallpaper becomes increasingly compelling.

The figure of a woman begins to take shape behind the pattern of the paper. At night the pattern becomes bars, and the woman in the wallpaper is imprisoned. As her imagination worsens, she frantically rips off the paper in order to free the woman she perceives i...

... middle of paper ... of the phrase “living paper” is quite effective. I used this quote because it symbolizes the importance and the effect of this inanimate object’s power over the tragic heroine. The word “living” is the most appropriate description for its power.

Treichler, Paula: She states, “the female lineage that the wallpaper represents is thick with life, expression, and suffering” (193)

It summarizes some of the main themes of the narrative. It restates the gender-related struggle and captivity that captures the true essence of this story.

2) Shumaker, Conrad. Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 37, 1990 p.195

He states that the husband is, “fearful and contemptuous of her imaginative and artistic powers, largely because fails to understand them or the view of the world they lead her to.” This quote describes the marital conflict between our heroine and her husband, hence the true struggle behind the story.

3) Lane, Ann J. To Herland and Beyond. 1990 p.130

She states, “frightened by the images of a baby, the one she has and the one she was.” This quote expresses a symbolic comparison between the hopelessness and helplessness of the heroine and that of her child.
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