Through a woman's perspective of assumed insanity, Charlotte Perkins Gilman comments on the role of the female in the late nineteenth century society in relation to her male counterpart in her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper." Gilman uses her own experience with mental instability to show the lack of power that women wielded in shaping the course of their psychological treatment. Further she uses vivid and horrific imagery to draw on the imagination of the reader to conceive the terrors within the mind of the psychologically wounded.
The un-named woman is to spend a summer away from home with her husband in what seems to be almost a dilapidated room of a "colonial mansion" (Gilman 832). In order to cure her "temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency" (Gilman 833) she is advised to do no work and to never to even think of her condition. This is the advice of her husband John who also fills the role as her physician.
This response to mental instability is important to Gilman's own agenda. In being under the care of her own husband the narrator takes on the role of his inferior. She is even deemed with child-like affections such as "little girl" (Gilman 838) and her very place of confinement is a nursery. The physical description of the room serves two of Gilman's purposes. First she says "It was a nursery first, and then playroom and gymnasium" (Gilman 834) to show that the room had been used by children in the past. Through this she identifies the status of women to that of a child- helpless and subservient to the power of others. She continues to say "the windows are barred" (Gilman 834) to describe the prison like quality of her surroundings showing the confinement of both her physical and mental being.
As a feminist writer, Gilman uses her supposedly mad character to show the lack of power women have in their own lives. For example the narrator wishes to reside in a downstairs room that "opened onto the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings" (Gilman 834). In order to better mental health a physician with the correct training would think that surroundings would play a large impact on mood and temperament. However, her husband is oblivious to this assumption for he chooses a huge room that takes up almost the entire floor.
This attitude is important in showing the lack of communication between husband and wife. He fails to see her psychological issues for what they are and his actions to mediate her supposed problem only make it worse. The narrator even questions the treatment prescribed by her husband and brother in saying "Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good" (Gilman 833). However even though she can question her treatment she is powerless to change it. Gilman uses this to again show the inferiority of women to men of this era.
Gilman's use of...