As a part of her treatment John & her brother (who is also a physician) advise her not to use her imagination in any way & rest, so her secret journal entries are the only kind of mental stimulus she has. As the story unfolds the narrator 's mind begins to run wild. She becomes fixated on the yellow wallpaper that is in the old nursery room where she & John sleep. It reaches a point where she imagines a woman is trapped behind this stained horrid wallpaper. Although the exact symbolic representation is arguable, the yellow patterned wallpaper seems to symbolize the role women have in society at this time, because of its focus on gender division & the significant time period it was written in where women 's rights was still a major issue .
It began to pick up steam in the 1850s, but was shut down because of the Civil War. The movement began in the years before the war, but received a major hindrance as the war started. Although women were enforced to go back to their domestic lives, the time period of the Civil War was a turning point for women. Women began gaining more recognition for their roles in the Civil War, and that was a huge motivation for women’s rights. People began to support women’s rights, and that was a huge win for advocates.
Enclosed to the four wall of this “big” room, the narrator says “the paint and paper look as if a boy’s school had used it” because “it is stripped off” indicating that males have attempted to distort women’s truth but somehow did not accomplish distorting the entire truth (Perkins Gilman, 43). When the narrator finally looked at the wall and the paint and paper on it, she was disgusted at the sight. The yellow wallpaper, she penned, secretly against the will of men, committed artistic sin and had lame uncertain curves that suddenly committed suicide when you followed them for a little distance. The narrator is forced to express her discomfort with the image to her husband, he sees it as an “excited fancy” that is provoked by the “imaginative power and habit of story making” by “a nervous weakness” like hers (Perkins Gilman, 46). Essentially, he believes that her sickness is worsening and the depth of her disease is the cause of the unexpected paranoia.
In this article I will discuss Gilman’s work “The Yellow Wallpaper” from a feminist point of view. Firstly, I will introduce the writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I will give an insight about her background and its relevance to “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Then I will talk about the society in the story and how it affected women with mental illnesses. I will also discuss the circumstances of the isolation as empowering element in the narrator’s case.
Intellectual Relief in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” The Yellow Wallpaper presents the story of a woman’s descent into madness. The narrator’s declining mental health is reflected through the characteristics of the house she is dwells in and her husband, while trying to protect her, is actually damaging her. The narrator of the story goes with her husband to stay in a colonial mansion for the summer. The house is supposed to be a place where she can recover from postpartum depression. The story is told from a first person perspective, as the narrator writes within her journal, while she is “absolutely forbidden” to write or work (Gilman 1).
Gilman investigated what went on in the progressive era within gender inequality. After gathering evidence of how women were treated in their marriage, she wrote her book “The Yellow Wallpaper” to educate readers on this obnoxious idea of separate spheres ideology, where the husband is to control, and the wife is to obey by his rules. In her book, she wrote a fantasy of a single woman from the progressive era. By using just a single woman she was able to explain in detail how all women were treated because that one woman from Gilman’s fantasy represented many women from that time period. When looking back at the book that Gilman wrote and re examining the quote, “Investigate, educate, legislate”, it seems blatantly obvious that Gilman was a muckraker.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, exhibits the domestic entrapment of women by society in the 19th century by adopting a naturalistic approach to the mood, tone, and other literary elements used in the short story. Naturalism is a genre of literature that started in the late nineteenth century, around the time “The Yellow Wallpaper” was published, and is originated from realism. According to literarydevices.net, naturalism focuses on “natural forces predetermining a character’s decisions” while realism is about free will and the decisions a character makes in response to a situation. The major forces that control our unnamed narrator’s actions in “The Yellow Wallpaper” are her figurative and physical environment and her relationship with John. There are multiple passages in the story that suggest that something about the colonial mansion is out of sorts.
Through her many stories, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, developed the notion of how being a strong independent woman can be inspirational to all. The expression of her personal feelings and opinions behind the guise of a seemingly fictional story brings new life to the story itself. During the nineteenth century, there were many stereotypes on what was expected from women. In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman composes the story of a woman who suffers from postpartum depression and stares at yellow wallpaper. Seeing that Gilman herself has experienced this form of mental illness, we can analyze the context of the text and see the reflection of her own life and in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” “The Yellow Wallpaper” starts off with two characters, John and a woman who is unnamed.
In her short story “Yellow Wallpaper”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman implies the oppression of women in 19th century and their anger by using some symbolic meanings associated with its settings. When Gilman published this story, America was a male-dominated society dating back to the Victorian times which suppressed women’s rights. The domestic ideology prevailed at that time claimed that women are not only subordinated to men but also are different from men. Also, the gender ideology of the day emphasized different characteristic, aptitude, and role of men and women building up discriminative images of gender. According to that ideology, men are active and creative while women are passive, fragile and dependent.