Essay PreviewMore ↓
It’s 2:00am and I cannot sleep. I toss and turn while the question, “Why didn’t you stand up for yourself?” keeps playing over and over in my mind. The picture in my mind of a subjugated woman who feebly attempts to fight against feminine oppression and her impending insanity is vivid and disturbing and continues to slap against the recesses of my mind with an angry hand. What was Charlotte Perkins Gilman attempting to convey to her readers when she wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” and created the characters of the narrator, her husband John, Mary and her sister-in-law Jennie? Obviously, in an exaggerated version of her own experience with post-partum depression and its prescribed “rest cure”, Gilman speaks of a world in which the female is forced into a role of the submissive counterpart to male dominance. In the following pages, I will describe how Gilman has effectively created characters that draw us into their view of control, dominance and frustrated silence against imprisonment in a paternalistic society, and how we are given a view into a perfectly healthy mind that goes awry.
To begin with, Gilman created the narrator as a nearly anonymous identity; we know her only as John’s wife. This power imbalance extends to other areas of their relationship. John dominates her in a progressively patronizing manner. His character is displayed as strong, practical and stereotypically masculine and he seems skeptical of her seemingly weak, feminine condition. John diagnoses her problem, and prescribes the “rest cure” he believes she needs. The narrator has no say in her condition, and when she attempts to speak her mind, he treats her like a child and makes light of her voice. “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that” (An Introduction to Fiction 572) which illustrates the role women are expected to play and accept in a marriage. Another main function Gilman gave of John’s control over the narrator is his inhibiting of her writing. Although she believes writing would help her condition, as I’m sure Gilman did, John insists it would only debilitate her ailment further. He stifles her creativity and intellect, forcing her into the role of the submissive wife. She is forced to hide her writings, which frustrate her more “I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (572).
How to Cite this Page
"The Yellow Wallpaper." 123HelpMe.com. 13 Dec 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Importance of the Wallpaper in The Yellow Wallpaper "The Yellow Wallpaper" takes a close look at one woman's mental deterioration. The narrator is emotionally isolated from her husband. Due to the lack of interaction with other people the woman befriends the reader by secretively communicating her story in a diary format. Her attitude towards the wallpaper is openly hostile at the beginning, but ends with an intimate and liberating connection. During the gradual change in the relationship between the narrator and the wallpaper, the yellow paper becomes a mirror, reflecting the process the woman is going through in her room.... [tags: Yellow Wallpaper essays]
1662 words (4.7 pages)
- Schizophrenia in The Yellow Wallpaper Throughout history people have always seemed to follow what notions that were considered "cool". Though I doubt that "cool" was the word used to describe these notions they were still there in some form or another. One of the greatest farces ever committed in the name of these popular perceptions was medicine. At that time, medicine that was on the cutting edge seem to have always involved some sort of noxious chemical or a typically atrocious diet.... [tags: The Yellow Wallpaper Essays]
1225 words (3.5 pages)
- The Narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator becomes more depressed throughout the story because of the recommendation of isolation that was made to her. In this short story the narrator is detained in a lonesome, drab room in an attempt to free herself of a nervous disorder. The narrator’s husband, a physician, adheres to this belief and forces his wife into a treatment of solitude. Rather than heal the narrator of her psychological disorder, the treatment only contributes to its effects, driving her into a severe depression.... [tags: The Yellow Wallpaper]
832 words (2.4 pages)
- The Fight for Sanity in The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is partly autobiographical and it illustrates the fight for selfhood by a women in an oppressed and oppressive environment. In the story, the narrator is not allowed to write or think, basically becoming more dysfunctional as she is entrapped in a former nursery room where bars adorn the windows and the bed is nailed to the floor. In this story there is an obstinacy on behalf of the narrator as she tries to go around her husband's and physician's restrictions, however, there is no resisting the oppressive nature of her environment and she finally surrenders to madness even though it repr... [tags: Yellow Wallpaper essays]
1752 words (5 pages)
- The Oppression of Women and The Yellow Wallpaper The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a fictionalized autobiographical account that illustrates the emotional and intellectual deterioration of the female narrator who is also a wife and mother. The woman, who seemingly is suffering from post-partum depression, searches for some sort of peace in her male dominated world. She is given a “rest cure” from her husband/neurologist doctor that requires strict bed rest and an imposed reprieve form any mental stimulation.... [tags: Yellow Wallpaper essays]
1520 words (4.3 pages)
- Symbolism and Repression in The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is as a wonderful example of the gothic horror genre. It was not until the rediscovery of the story in the early 1970’s that “The Yellow Wallpaper” was recognized as a feminist indictment of a male dominated society. The story contains many typical gothic trappings, but beneath the conventional façade hides a tale of repression and freedom told in intricate symbolism as seen through the eyes of a mad narrator.... [tags: Yellow Wallpaper essays]
2045 words (5.8 pages)
- Male Dominance in The Yellow Wallpaper The story of The Yellow Wallpaper reflects the period where men dominated women. The real meaning of this story is written hidden behind it. The author had used a writing style that is taking objects portraying men, women, and society. The story first starts off a couple have moved to a house. A so- called haunted house, her wife describes it. The wife, who is a patient of her husband, has moved here to cure her sickness. She does not admit that she has a problem. Everyday she keeps looking at the tore yellow wallpaper.... [tags: Yellow Wallpaper essays]
589 words (1.7 pages)
- "The Yellow Wallpaper" was one of the first works to chronicle the process of going insane. Its harrowing quality derives from the fact that the author knows whereof she speaks. But even though it is based on Gilman's own breakdown, the story is crafted as a work of art, because the nightmarish motif of the yellow wallpaper itself serves as a metaphor for the disintegration of the protagonist's mind. The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" has no name. Generally, when the protagonist of a first-person story remains unnamed throughout the work, we take this to mean that the character represents all humankind.... [tags: The Yellow Wallpaper Essays]
842 words (2.4 pages)
- Gilman Exposed in The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," is the disheartening tale of a woman suffering from postpartum depression. Set during the late 1890s, the story shows the mental and emotional results of the typical "rest cure" prescribed during that era and the narrator’s reaction to this course of treatment. It would appear that Gilman was writing about her own anguish as she herself underwent such a treatment with Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell in 1887, just two years after the birth of her daughter Katherine.... [tags: Yellow Wallpaper essays]
1293 words (3.7 pages)
- Caught in the Yellow Wallpaper "The pattern is torturing. You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you." As her madness progresses the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper becomes increasingly aware of a woman present in the pattern of the wallpaper. She sees this woman struggling against the paper's "bars". Later in her madness she imagines there to be many women lost in its "torturing" pattern, trying in vain to climb through it.... [tags: Yellow Wallpaper essays]
1053 words (3 pages)
We know the narrator and John have a baby, but the baby, as a character, is quite flat and doesn’t play a significant role in the story, if only to clarify the narrator’s feeling of inadequacy over her wifely and maternal duties. Mary (a likely allusion to the perfect mother, the Virgin Mary) has replaced her as the caretaker of the baby, and Jennie plays the model of a perfectly submissive and happily domesticated wife. In an attempt to retreat from her inability to be a good mother and wife, she focuses on her immediate surroundings and allows her mind to get drawn into delusions and fantasies revolving around the house, and more specifically, the room she is imprisoned in.
The structure of the house and its surroundings bear out the suppression of the narrator’s mind “…there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people…I never saw such a garden, large and shady, full of box-bordered paths…” (572). Everything seems separated and boxed in, like a prison, and she is held captive in her room. Interestingly enough, I was under the impression that Gilman wrote of the house much like that of a man: larger than life, full of aggression and competitiveness. Even the fact that it was a “hereditary estate” (572) reminds us that it was probably passed down to the men in the family. The fact that John ordered the narrator to reside in the large nursery on the second floor is further evidence of his control over her. She voiced her opposition and her desire to be able to choose one of the rooms downstairs with a view of the garden, but to no avail. Notice here, Gilman has described the narrator as desiring a more stereotypically feminine room, one that “opened to the piazza and had roses all over the window” (573). But predictably, John would not hear of it and she is forced to rest in the nursery with no visitors, no writing and only the wallpaper to stare at. The nursery also has bars on the windows, another symbol of imprisonment. Of course the narrator hates the wallpaper most of all, almost as a parody of how she hates that room, and furthermore, her suppressed life. She describes the wallpaper and its design “…when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of-contradictions” (573). Gilman, here, describes what is to come…a foreshadowing of the delicate nature of the narrator’s mind. Her sanity is in turmoil and conflict, she is fighting a determination to be heard, and, not being able to in her society, retreats into herself, committing social suicide as a way to escape her imprisonment.
In another subtle hint, Gilman addresses the significance of sunshine and moonlight as a direct caricature of man and woman. Sunshine dominates the nursery for most of the day, much like John dominates the narrator as he gives her “a scheduled prescription for each hour of the day” (573), and, subsequently, the narrator begins to sleep most of the day. The moon, however, symbolizes female intuition and sensitivity and appears to liberate the narrator in some form. The sunshine is also equated with the yellow wallpaper, which is “faded by the slow turning sunlight…a sickly sulphur tint” (573), which is symbolic of the narrator’s illness.
Gilman provides additional evidence that the narrator’s mind is growing more chaotic as time passes. The garden becomes less appealing to her with its “riotuous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees” (574). These words seem to mirror the narrator’s state of mind, which grows less fluent and more irregular in her writing. The wallpaper becomes a centralized focus for the narrator and its effects are spookily apparent as the narrator spends more and more time attempting to decipher the wallpapers contents.
The narrator begins to feel watched over by the wallpaper, much like John and Jennie watch over her, adding to her sense of imprisonment. The sunlight motif appears again when she claims she can see a figure in the wallpaper “a strange, provoking formless sort of figure that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design” (575). All of a sudden, the wallpaper becomes an all-consuming focus of the narrator and she begins to feel a connection with its contents, perhaps a hope for her own identity since in her current state, she lives through John’s identity. It is John’s paternalistic actions toward the narrator that are driving her toward the wallpaper. He controls her every action, and Gilman even makes a reference to her former doctor Mitchell, who prescribed her a similar “rest cure”, and who is “just like John and my brother, only more so!” (574).
The figure behind the wallpaper begins to take shape and the narrator describes her as a woman “And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern.” (577). The motif of moonlight and sunshine really develop here. It is during this time, at night, that the narrator gains the courage to request that John take her away from this place, although her plea is unsuccessful. Then, the wallpaper’s pattern emerges by moonlight. The woman behind the wallpaper symbolizes the oppression of female domestication: she is barred from exiting the wallpaper. The narrator is only subconsciously aware of this oppression at night, when her mind is allowed to roam. During the day, the narrator is repressed, like the wallpaper “In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing.” (580) Here the narrator’s writing becomes more and more choppier and paranoid. She believes everyone is trying to figure out the meaning of the wallpaper which she vehemently wants to do herself “I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!” (580).
The woman behind the wallpaper become more evident and in her domesticated prison of the wallpaper, she shakes the bars to try to escape “The woman behind it shakes it!” (581) Eventually, the narrator assists in the escape plan as her insanity climaxes and she identifies completely with the woman in the wallpaper. She now believes she is that woman coming out of the wallpaper. Again, the symbolic meaning is that she has finally liberated herself from masculine oppression by tearing down the domesticated prison of the wallpaper. This moment of revelation again occurs by moonlight when, according to the theme Gilman has suggested, women have a break from the oppression of masculine sunshine. The narrator’s statement “I’ve got out at last…in spite of you and Jane!” (584) is a final attempt to give herself, the narrator, an identity. We, as the readers, are finally given a name for her. It is ironic then, as John rushed into the room, that he should faint, which is typically a stereotypical feminine show of weakness.
Gilman is an incredibly courageous woman to express her feministic views during her era. It is evident that, through her own experiences with oppression, she attempted to horrify women into thinking for themselves, using their own minds, fighting against oppression. She has created characters women could identify with, with the same point of views. Gilman was not afraid of being caught acting her feministic ways by expressing her ideas, as the narrator was with her creeping about. The narrator clearly drew us a picture of the effects of suppression of the mind and impending insanity. Gilman may have wanted us, as readers, to look beyond the yellow wallpaper toward feministic freedom; to tear down the wall of oppression; to not continue to creep about. This view of “creeping” may specify that early feminism needed to creep about silently in the shadows until it could stand tall. The large mass of women the narrator sees are these early practitioners of feminism, as Gilman was, who draw strength in their numbers and have crept out of the wallpaper of repression and now creep outside.