“The Yellow Wallpaper”by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Analysis Essay

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman who is a women’s rights activist, a mother, wife, and a writer uses her book, the “The Yellow Wallpaper”to show how women in the society possessed an inferior position in contrast to that of man. The book is written in the era during which the female gender lacked the rights and freedom like the one she has today. Gilman uses “The Yellow Wallpaper”to talk about a tale of a woman who seems to be driven extremely to the brink of insanity by the kind of treatment prescribed to her by the doctor as a way of treating her postpartum depression which involves maximum resting (Perkins 512). The social norms and continued protagonists’ struggle against the persistent male-centric thinking in the community is what influences Gilman to use the feminist approach as the central theme in this story. This paper sets to provide a detailed discussion of what drives the narrator in the story to the brink of madness, the various existing ways the colonial mansion ends up becoming a prison for the narrator and lastly what the yellow wallpaper represents in the story. Gilman uses this story to talk about the public perception of mental illness, the place that a woman had in the society and the issue of feminism during the 19th century.

Identification of what Drives the Narrator to the Brink of Madness

The “cure rest”treatment that is prescribed to the narrator by the physician and her husband who is also a doctor is what drives her to the brink of madness. The narrator is instructed to abstain from engaging in any creative stimulation and physical activity until the time she recovers from her postpartum depression which gets soon after giving birth to her baby. This cure rest treatment that John insists that the narrator should undertake eventually leads to her breaking down completely. While going through treatment, the narrator is prohibited from writing, reading or seeing her new baby as she would be tempted to take care of that baby as any mother would do. It was only sleeping and breathing the fresh air that was present in the country estate that the narrator was allowed to do during this period (Perkins 688). The narrator is forced to play the subordinate role whereby John makes all the decisions for her regarding what she is supposed to do and not do, and he made her think and believe that she could not make decisions on her own. This situation is a clear indicator of how male dominance characterized the 19tyh century. John thinks that the best remedy to give to the narrator who is his wife is to hold her a captive by locking her away from the outside world without putting into consideration how much this act was violating the human rights of the narrator. Another reason that further facilitates the narrator to reach the brink of madness or breakdown is the behavior of her husband to watch and monitor her while in the locked up room which makes the condition of the narrator to worsen instead of getting better (Perkins 689).

Ways in Which the Colonial Mansion Becomes a Prison for the Narrator

While in the room that the narrator is locked up by her husband as a way of helping her recover from her post-partum depression, she is prevented from engaging in any activity other than just sleeping and breathing the fresh air. The restrictions that are placed on the narrator on what she can do and what she cannot do is limits her freedom and makes her more of a prisoner than a free human being. The narrator is locked away from the outside world and is not allowed to do anything without the consent of her husband hence making her more of a prisoner (Perkins 670). Moreover, the colonial mansion in which the narrator is confined in is secluded and isolated from the main road whereby there are locks, gates, and great walls. 

What the Wallpaper Represents

The yellow wallpaper represents the gender discrimination and the inferior position that the female gender is given in the society especially during the 19th century which is the period in which in this story was written. The act of the female gender submitting to a man as it was the case in the 19th century is symbolized by the woman that the narrator sees in the yellow wallpaper creeping and stooping down behind the pattern that signifies submission to man in the 19th-century era (Perkins 671). In this wallpaper, the narrator sees a woman who is behind bars. This yellow wallpaper is pronounced enough to persistently keep on provoking and irritating the reader, dull enough to confuse the eyes of the one viewing it and whenever the narrator follows the lame uncertain curves that are present in this yellow wallpaper, they seem as if they are destroying themselves in unheard-of contradictions and committing suicide-plunge off at outrageous angles (Perkins 672). The yellow wallpaper is an explicit representation of the current situation that the narrator is facing while in this colonial mansion. It eventually becomes her source of strength and ends up giving her the much-needed confidence and courage to leave her husband John who mistreats her.

Work Cited

Perkins, Charlotte Gilman. “‘Unheard-Of Contradictions’: The Language of Madness in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” Figuring Madness in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 2, no. 1, 1997, pp. 509–721., doi:10.1057/9780230371316_2.

December 12, 2023




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