Symbolism In Rest Gilman

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Nineteenth century America was a newly born nation, emerging as a powerhouse in the world. Coming onto the scene as a sophisticated country, America was held back internally by its exorbitantly patriarchal society. A society in which women were “ trapped by limiting social expectations and narrowly defined roles….(Parini n.pag.).” Men were practical beings and thus frowned upon the imaginations of women. As a result, women suffering from mental illness were grossly neglected by the men in their lives. Not able to fathom any diseases of the mind, doctors’ prescriptions for their patients addressed disorders such as depression as if it were a physical ailment. This mentality was how S. Weir Mitchell, a physician, became renowned for his “Rest…show more content…
John, the narrator’s husband, is one of the most predominant symbols, representing an array of different concepts. John chiefly represents the patriarchal, practical society of the nineteenth century, “he represents reason…(Shumaker n.pag.).” He sees imagination as, “ a potentially dangerous part of her feminine temperament. (Shumaker n.pag.),” which causes him to prohibit the narrator from any form of writing, thus propelling her towards her eventual mental breakdown. John also symbolizes the captivity of the narrator. He is the very thing blocking her from recovery, even when the narrator finally loses her grips on reality he is figuratively and now literally blocking her path so she had to “creep over him every time! (Gilman 12),” as she made her way around her room in madness. Another symbol, the “” wallpaper that surrounds the narrator, represents her predicament. More specifically, the pattern of the wallpaper, “suggests the control and power the narrator hates but finds herself unable to resist directly (Shulman n.pag.).” Throughout the story, she is fixated on the “” patterns and where they start and how they fit together. After some time in the room, the narrator notes that the patterns morphe to become a woman behind bars which represent how the narrator is really feeling, trapped. As a result her own existence becomes, “mirrored in the wallpaper…(Korb n.pag.).”
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