Analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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Through a woman's perspective of assumed insanity, Charlotte Perkins Gilman comments on the role of the female in the late nineteenth century society in relation to her male counterpart in her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper." Gilman uses her own experience with mental instability to show the lack of power that women wielded in shaping the course of their psychological treatment. Further she uses vivid and horrific imagery to draw on the imagination of the reader to conceive the terrors within the mind of the psychologically wounded.

The un-named woman is to spend a summer away from home with her husband in what seems to be almost a dilapidated room of a "colonial mansion" (Gilman 832). In order to cure her "temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency" (Gilman 833) she is advised to do no work and to never to even think of her condition. This is the advice of her husband John who also fills the role as her physician.

This response to mental instability is important to Gilman's own agenda. In being under the care of her own husband the narrator takes on the role of his inferior. She is even deemed with child-like affections such as "little girl" (Gilman 838) and her very place of confinement is a nursery. The physical description of the room serves two of Gilman's purposes. First she says "It was a nursery first, and then playroom and gymnasium" (Gilman 834) to show that the room had been used by children in the past. Through this she identifies the status of women to that of a child- helpless and subservient to the power of others. She continues to say "the windows are barred" (Gilman 834) to describe the prison like quality of her surroundings showing the confinement of both her physical and...


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.... At this point he is also forced to listen to her for the first time. This ending is also ironic because it serves as a reversal of the roles of male and female. The woman steps into power while the man faints in response to the reality of his wife's madness.

Through "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman comments on the roles of husband and wife and the inequality that exists within their relationship. In the depiction of her protagonist's mental collapse she shows the problems with psychological diagnoses and the lack of power women had in their own treatment. This stance comes from her own experience with mental illness and her inability to assert her will in the situation. Most importantly she uses the case of one's psychological deterioration to ultimately break the barrier between men and women in terms of mental treatment and diagnoses.

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