Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is a commentary on the
male oppression of women in a patriarchal society. However, the story itself
presents an interesting look at one woman's struggle to deal with both physical
and mental confinement. This theme is particularly thought-provoking when read
in today's context where individual freedom is one of our most cherished rights.
This analysis will focus on two primary issues: 1) the many vivid images Gilman
uses to illustrate the physical and symbolic confinement the narrator endures
during her illness; and 2) the overall effect of, and her reaction to, this
The Yellow Wallpaper begins with the narrator's description of the
physically confining elements surrounding her. The story is cast in an isolated
hereditary estate, set back from the road and located three miles from town.
The property boasts protective hedges that surround the garden, walls that
surround the estate, and locked gates which guarantee seclusion. Even the
connecting garden represents confinement, with box-bordered paths and grape-
covered arbors. This isolation motif continues within the mansion itself.
Although she preferred the downstairs room with roses all over the windows that
opened on the piazza, the narrator finds herself relegated to an out of the way
dungeon-like nursery on the second floor, appropriately equipped with "rings and
things" in the walls. Windows in each direction provide glimpses of the garden,
arbors, bushes, and trees. The bay is visible, as is a private wharf that
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...age or How to Read Your Own Life."
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Woman and Her Work. Ed. Sheryl Meyering.
Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989. 75-94.
Ehrenreich, Barbara and English, Deirdre."The 'Sick' Women of the Upper Classes," The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on the Yellow Wallpaper, ed. Catherine Golden, New York, Feminist Press, 1992, 90-109.
Hedges, Elaine R. Afterword. The Yellow Wallpaper. 1973: 37-63. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism 9. Detroit: Gale: 1988.
Shumaker, Conrad. "'Too Terribly Good to Be Printed': Charlotte Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper'" American Literature. 57 (1985): 194-198.
Treichler, Paula A. "Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in The Yellow Wallpaper"' Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. 3 (1984): 61-77.
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