The Yellow Wallpaper Feminist Theory

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, a story that tackles gender roles and the expectations that they hold. While this may be a controversial topic today, it was almost unheard of speaking out about it back when this story was first published in 1892. Through talking about the narrator’s personal thoughts, the mental health of the narrator, and the author’s real-life experiences we can view The Yellow Wallpaper using Gender Criticism Theory. While we will be viewing The Yellow Wallpaper using Gender Criticism Theory, it is important to realize that this branch of critical theory did not become popularized until almost one hundred years after the story was originally published in the late 1800’s. The article Literary Theory…show more content…
Ideas such as women working daily jobs or women in positions of power would have been completely laughed away when this story came out, which I believe goes to show just how far we have come as a society in breaking down those gender roles and norms. That being said, these gender expectations are what made the narrator ill in the first place. Over the course of The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator’s mental health is in a consistent downward spiral. At the start of the story, she already has an illness called “Nervous Prostration” which she has as a result of these extreme expectations put on her simply because she is a woman. This condition is then worsened considerably by what was considered to be a cure for her illness at the time. This cure is for the patient to be left in complete isolation for a majority of their time. One instance of this having a negative effect on the narrator is when she states, “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time. Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone” (396). In addition to this, gender roles also…show more content…
In fact, Gilman used her own experiences with Nervous Prostration as an influence in writing this story. The article titled A Feminist Reading of Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” states, “When “The Yellow Wallpaper” was published [Gilman] sent it to Weir Mitchell whose strictures had kept her from attempting the pen during her own breakdown, thereby aggravating her illness, and she was delighted to learn, years later, that “he had changed his treatment of nervous prostration since reading” her story. “If that is a fact,” she declared, “I have not lived in vain” (906). This shows one example of her experiences that Gilman included in The Yellow Wallpaper. The narrator even states “So I take phosphates or phosphites - whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do? 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. I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus - but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me
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