Seclusion and Oppression in Charlotte Perkins´The Yellow Wallpaper

Seclusion and Oppression in Charlotte Perkins´The Yellow Wallpaper

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When first reading the gothic feminist tale, “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, one might assume this is a short story about a women trying to save her sanity while undergoing treatment for postpartum depression. Gilman herself had suffered post-natal depression and was encouraged to undergo the “rest cure” to cure her hysteria. The treatment prescribed to Gilman resulted in her having a very similar experience as the narrator in the short story. The “perfect rest” (648), which consisted of forced bed rest and isolation sparked the inspiration for “The Yellow Wallpaper.” This story involving an unreliable narrator, became an allegory for repression of women. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman illustrates the seclusion and oppression of women in the nineteenth century society by connecting the female imprisonment, social and mental state, and isolation to the objects in and around the room.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is written in the first person narrative of a women's secret journal and her descent into madness. With the medical community of the nineteenth century misunderstanding and mistreating women, despite the protests of women. The treatment that John, the narrator’s husband, offers does not help at all, in fact throughout the story the narrator’s journal entrees and condition progressively worsens. Spending the summer in an abandoned mansion in order to recover from what her physician husband believes is a “temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency” (648). Her husband does not believe that her illness is serious the narrator states,“You see he does not believe I am sick” (647)! According to history men thought that they knew better than women, especially women who were “hysterical.” ...


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...oney to sustain themselves. Many of them felt trapped, as if behind the hideous yellow wallpaper. They were expected to have a domestic life, oppression was present in and out of the house. The color yellow is prominent in the story, it is a lively color that is often used to symbolize life and energy. The use of the lively yellow color contrasts the feelings of the narrator. The narrator realizes that herself as the woman becoming a freed woman from the oppression of the yellow wallpaper, which represents the Victorian society. At the end of the short story, when the wife refuses to leave and the husband faints she symbolically steps over his body to freedom. Imagery present in “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows the narrators slow spiral into madness. The imagery along with the oppression and isolation felt by the narrator lead to lunacy which eventually set her free.



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