The first theme present in the horrific and heart wrenching story is the subordinate position of women within marriage. “The Yellow Wallpaper” begins with the narrator’s wish that her house were haunted like those in which “frightened heroines suffer Gothic horrors” (DeLamotte 5). However, this wish is in essence to empower herself. The narrator is already afraid of her husband and is suffering mentally and emotionally. She desperately wishes for an escape “through fantasy, into a symbolic version of her own plight: a version in which she would have a measure of distance and control” (DeLamotte 6). Throughout the text, Gilman reveals to the reader that during the time in which the story was written, men acquired the working role while women were accustomed to working within the boundaries of their “woman sphere”. This gender division meritoriously kept women in a childlike state of obliviousness and prevented them from reaching any scholastic or professional goals. John, the narrator’s husband, establishes a treatment for his wife through the assumption of his own superior wisdom and maturity. This narrow minded thinking leads him to patronize and control his wife, all in the name of “helping her”. The narrator soon begins to feel suffocated as she is “physically and emotionally trapped by her husband” (Korb). The narrator has zero control in the smallest details of her life and is consequently forced to retreat into her fantasies...
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...at the narrator will possibly be physically restrained or imprisoned at some point when her husband regains consciousness. At that point, he will have no other choice but to send her back to her doctor or a mental institution. Nevertheless, the narrator’s mind will always remain free, emulating the freedom relished by the woman in the wallpaper. Unfortunately, this escape of reality means that the speaker will never reclaim any sort of rationality. With the deed of freeing the woman in the wallpaper, the narrator unintentionally guarantees the long lasting burden of insanity.
All in all, the heart wrenching and goosebump producing story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman takes the reader on a psychological rollercoaster ride. Through the swift use of theme, Gilman ingeniously illustrates the struggles women faced during the nineteenth century.
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