The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Gilman

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In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman, themes of freedom and confinement are explored in the narrator’s internal imprisonment. The narrator, who has been diagnosed by husband with a nervous disorder, seeks refuge in an old house for the summer. She is uncomfortable with the house itself, and her husband gives her strict orders to rest in a singular room. While in this room, she becomes fascinated with the faded yellow wallpaper that decorates the walls, studying the designs in the wallpaper with intensity until she finds what she thinks is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper itself. The narrator becomes totally obsessed with freeing the woman behind the wallpaper. At the end of the story, she has a vicious mental breakdown, writhing on the floor and tearing down every piece of wallpaper. Her husband finds her in the midst of this psychotic fit; he faints, and the narrators feels liberated. To establish the narrator’s freedom, however, the reader must first know what she is gaining liberation from: she needs to be freed from her responsibilities in society. At the end of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator’s journey for freedom is over, and some aspects are achieved, while others are not.
Of the three aspects of freedom to be discussed, freedom in the physical sense is the easiest for the reader to pick up. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is trapped in a world where her husband treats her like a child even though the narrator herself is mature enough to give birth. After the birth of her son, she feels trapped. The narrator needs to be freed from her feelings of inferiority and subconscious claustrophobia that her husband has intensified by leaving her in a form of solitary confinement. She craves communicat...


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...roved herself more powerful than John, and she is symbolically free from his reign.
Ann Petry, the writer of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” wrote this short story as an act of defiance against societal customs for women of the late 1800’s. One scholar writes, “Gilman was ahead of her own time… she defied cultural stereotypes… and planted her feminist ideas in her own writings to enlarge the woman’s sense of what was possible” (Quawas 2-3). In this story, which contains the feministic values Petry proclaimed, the story of a woman yearning from freedom from her suffocating nineteenth century role as a wife and mother. She struggles against traditional male values of power, eventually reaching emotional liberation in the end. This story provides a crucial insight into the disastrous results of a woman who has crumbled mentally and physically because of her lack of freedom.

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