The Yellow Wallpaper, By Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper, By Gilman

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Women have struggled for decades to carve out their place in society, but before they could do that they were tasked with standing their ground in their own marriages. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a journalist, feminist and women’s rights activist who used her writing to shed light on women’s unequal status in the institution of marriage. In Gilman’s time it was a social norm that women were concerned only with the domestic trappings of the marriage, while the husband took the active role. In Gilman’s most famous short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman uses a captivating plot, the symbolism of some frustrating wallpaper, and an overall theme of the importance of self expression to articulate the sometimes harmful aspects of a woman’s place in marriage.
Gilman’s first tool in her hefty arsenal is the incredibly captivating plot she puts forth. Gilman insures she uses every aspect of the plot to aid in explaining the truly prevalent downsides of a woman’s submissive role in marriages of the time. During the major conflict the narrator struggles to make her opinions heard to her husband and doctor, John, about her illness and treatment. Any time the narrator tries to talk of her illness with her husband he tells her she must not think of her illness lest she worsen it. Unable to think about or discuss her illness the narrator draws inward. This causes the narrator to have a conflict with herself as she begins to understand her place in the marriage as well as her desire to repress this understanding. The narrator even begins blaming her anger with her husband on her condition, saying “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition” (Gilman 479). T...


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... some way - it is such a relief” (Gilman 483)! John tells his wife that she must control her imagination, lest it run away with her. In this way John has asserted full and complete dominance over his wife. The narrator, though an equal adult to her husband, is reduced to an infancy. In this state the narrator begins her slow descent into hysteria, for in her effort to understand herself she fully and completely loses herself.
Being able to have an equal partner and feel heard is not only an important thing to have in a marriage but is an important thing for one’s health. Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses her story “The Yellow Wallpaper” to discuss and emphasize the harmful effects this can have on women. With a captivating plot Gilman keeps the reader interested, and with powerful symbolism and themes teaches the reader the importance of a woman’s status in her marriage.

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