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Desire For Freedom In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper

2062 words - 9 pages

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1899. One of the major themes is the cultural perception of women during this time. This short story is semi-autobiographical in the sense that Gilman went to the doctor that is mentioned in the story. She had similar struggles and feelings to the narrator of this story who is facing the controlling nature of her husband. While women of this time were trying to be kept in their private and domestic sphere, it left women feeling hopeless and full of depression. Because of this, Gilman may have been prompted to write this story to help express her feelings and also bring awareness to society about how some women were feeling. Through Gilman’s use of symbols, she is able to convey that women are being suppressed and only want to achieve freedom from their social bondage.
This story is about a physician, John, who, after seeing his wife has acquired a “nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency,” takes her to a summer “vacation” home to let her rest and recover from her pressing illness. (Gilman, 1899) After being put in what seems to be a nursery, the narrator becomes fixated on the yellow wallpaper that envelops the room. At first she describes it as meaningless and unimportant but soon she becomes obsessed with the shapes that begin to appear on the paper. John and his sister Jennie observe the narrator and think her condition is improving because of the rest she is getting and the fact that the narrator is not allowed to do anything that will induce more nervous behaviors. After her obsession with the wallpaper reaches a climax, the narrator locks herself in her room. She then begins to creep around the room, rubbing against the wallpaper. After John realizes what she has done, he pleads with her to unlock the door but is faced with having to go find the key to the room. After getting the door open, he sees his wife creeping around the room with her shoulder against the wallpaper and John passes out. This does not deter or disturb the narrator’s creeping walk. She continues onward and is forced to step over her husband on her journey around the room.
One of the main ways that Gilman tries to convey her message in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is through the use of symbolism. One of the most prominent symbols in this story is the yellow wallpaper that is in the narrator’s room. When thinking of wallpaper, one usually thinks about how wallpaper can be feminine and decorative. Wallpaper doesn’t really serve a significant purpose other than to be a cosmetic item that is found nowhere other than in the domestic sphere of the home. The wallpaper is a symbol for how women are viewed. Some people during this time period only viewed women as a cosmetic item that served no other person than to have children and take care of the household duties. The narrator describes the paper as “torn off in spots” and that it has “a kind of sub-pattern in a, different shade, a...

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