The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote an amazing story in 1892 entitled “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The story is full of symbolism and was inspired by Gilman's own life struggles. This analysis of her work will cover some important parts of the author’s life, the characters, the setting of the story, and the plot. Throughout the analysis will be explanations of symbols and how the author tied her personal experiences into the story.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a story that the author wrote to depict her own struggle with mental illness. In order to really appreciate this story, it may help to know about the author’s life. Born in 1860, she was the only child of Mary Finch Westcott and Frederick Beecher Perkins, a librarian and writer. It is said that Charlotte’s father abandoned his family, and, on the verge of poverty, they were forced to move around frequently (Merriman). At the age of 24, Charlotte married her first husband, Charles Watson Stetson, with whom she bore a daughter, Katharine Beecher Stetson. Shortly after giving birth, Charlotte began to suffer from severe postpartum depression and had a nervous breakdown. She spent some time at a sanitorium in Pennsylvania, under the care of Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell (Merriman). In 1913, Gilman wrote “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”;

For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia – and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still good physique responded so promptly that he concluded that there was no...


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... the characters in the story, the setting of the story, and the plot of the story. While times have changed drastically since Gilman wrote her story, it is my hope that women everywhere will read “The Yellow Wallpaper”, recognize the struggles she faced in her life, and be grateful that she chose to not accept the advice of a male physician wanting her to submit to a domestic, docile, stereotypical housewife sort of life.



Works Cited

Booth, Allison and Kelly Mays. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 10th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.

Merriman, C.D. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman.” Jalic, Inc. 2006. 27 Feb. 2015. http://www.online-literature.com/charlotte-perkins-gilman/.

Voight, Heather “Symbols in the Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.” 2010. 27 Feb. 2015.
http://www.helium.com/items/1753292-symbols-in-the-yellow-wallpaper.

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