The Yellow Wallpaper, By Charlotte Perkins Stetson

The Yellow Wallpaper, By Charlotte Perkins Stetson

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In The Yellow Wallpaper, the wallpaper is that which separates Jane from her latent desires for agency and equality in her relationship with her husband. Through a close reading of the final two pages of Charlotte Perkins Stetson’s short story, one can examine the relationship that Jane has with the woman in the wallpaper, who is representative of Jane’s inner self, and the relationship between Jane and her husband John. This examination is key to understanding the way that power dynamics manifest themselves in the narrative and how they impact Jane’s quest for agency.
Jane’s relationship with the woman in the wallpaper is complicated to be sure. At face value their relationship seems to be one of collaboration since Jane’s objective is to free the woman from her entrapment. However, Jane also feels compelled to trap the woman should she escape. In preparation for the woman’s escape Jane obtains a rope, and declares, “If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her!” (Stetson 655) On the front of collaboration, Jane and the woman in the wallpaper do work together. As such, they share common goals and employ similar the methods to achieve them. This is most evident when Jane says, “I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.” (Stetson 655) Point for point, the woman in the wallpaper and Jane match each other’s behavior. In addition, the use of the plural pronoun “we” also speaks to their combined effort. However, in spite of their common goals, Jane also has plans to subdue the woman. This places a limit on their collaboration, but that limit is eventually surpassed, establishing, in turn, that Jane and the woman in the wallpaper are one and the same.
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...hough it is important to note that the dominance is only manifested in the room with the yellow wallpaper and not anywhere else. Whether Jane continues the exertion of this dominance is not written in the story. However, one can infer that since Jane has apparently gone mad, her agency and power will be taken from her, and she will be institutionalized.
In Jane’s quest to acquire agency and find control in her life lead her to descend into madness. Her controlling husband and his unhelpful treatment exacerbate her condition. Her final act of defiance crafts a connection between the room and Jane’s mind, while simultaneously allowing Stetson to comment on the power structures in relationships between men and women. The final result of Jane’s natural inclination toward freedom results in her ultimate imprisonment, that is to say, she is imprisoned within her own mind.

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