The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is regarded as one of the most important early work of American feminism. This short story illustrates the attitude toward women in regards to their health, both physically and mentally, in the 1800’s. The story opens with the narrator and her husband John, a physician, as well as their child, in a mansion by the lake that they have rented for the summer. Since it is written in the form of a collection of journal entries, though the use of first person story-telling, pretty early on the mental state of the unnamed narrator is abundantly clear. She is diagnosed with a "temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency", a common issue for women of that time. However, she does not feel the same about her mental state as her husband and her therapist. Although she is deemed “unfit” for work and writing, she reveals that writing is her only distraction and she will not allow John to take that away from her. She is sent to live in an old nursery painted yellow with barred windows to prevent the children from climbing through them. Because she fears that John will take anything she has left away from her, she hides her journal from him and his sister the housekeeper. This is the first time the narrator questions John’s respect for her and the first time she, not John, decides what is best for her.
Over the course of the story, the narrator fixates on the pattern and color of the wallpaper. With nothing else to stimulate her mind, the only thing the narrator ever thinks about is the yellow wallpaper. She is simply obsessed with it. The wallpaper is slowly starting to drive the narrator crazy, made very clear by comments like "It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes ...


... middle of paper ...


... own, that ends up trapping so many women.
Ultimately, the story depicts the effect of society on marriage and individualism of women outside the home. Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself was tired of the limitations and constraints of being a wife, so after her own experience with postpartum depression she decided to write about her own experience. Much like the narrator, Gilman felt she had no existence beyond the home. She also revealed for the first time that the family life could never satisfy a women unless she too was able to grow alongside the family individually. The yellow wallpaper within the narrators confined room represents her waning emotional state. The mental health of the woman is quite literally out the window at this point in the story. Much like the sanity of the woman, the wallpaper is historically representative of women in the nineteenth century.

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