Identity and Independence in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Identity and Independence in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Although "The Yellow Wall-Paper" is fiction, it can be considered
almost like Gilman's autobiography since Gilman's life seemed to parallel
her main character's life.  What Gilman was trying to express in this work
is women's fight for identity and independence (professional work) which
are stripped from them by marriage and motherhood. (p799) 

In the story, a woman who just gave birth had some complications which resulted in her so
called "hysteria" or nervous condition.  She's not allowed to do anything
but stare at some yellow wall-paper until she ultimately  loses her mind.

The narrator, who will be referred to as Gilman for simplicity's sake, is
a  writer who is unable to write due to her motherhood.  "I did write for
a while in spite of them; but it does  exhaust me a good deal-" (p801)  It
was this motherhood that brought her illness so she couldn't write.  This
shows how just being a woman is difficult to have a career.  Her husband,
John, always tried to keep her in her room without anything to do but
recover from her illness.  Without anything to do, especially her writing,
Gilman saw this as being held back from becoming her true self. "John is
a physician, and perhaps ...perhaps that is one reason I do not get well
faster." (p801) She had to be sneaky about writing or else John would find
out.  "-having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition."
(p801) 

Because of this "prison" that she was in,  Gilman started to see
images in the yellow wall-paper that she stared at day-in and day-out.
The images she "saw" were a woman, and then women trapped behind the
yellow wall-paper.  "The woman behind shakes it!  Sometimes I think there
are a great many women behind... Then in the very bright spots she keeps
still, and the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes
them hard." (p809)  The image of the woman and women is how Gilman feels
about her and every other woman during this time period.  By being a woman
and married, she became sick and imprisoned much like her women images.

The bars that the woman shook are Gilman's motherhood and marriage; her
freedom would be her independence from John and her writings.  At the end
of the story, John faints at the site of Gilman "creeping" around the

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Related Searches

perimeter of her room.  She keeps crawling around and around over his body
every time she circled around.  "...so that I had to creep over him every
time!" (p812)  This can be taken as women's struggle for their
independence and identity and that they will not stop for anything in
their path.

Work Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." "The Yellow Wallpaper" and other Stories. New York: Dover Publications, 1997. 1-15.

Work Consulted

Hedges, Elaine R. Afterword. The Yellow Wallpaper. 1973: 37-63. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism 9. Detroit: Gale: 1988.
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