Jane's Search for Self-identity in The Yellow Wallpaper
"The Yellow Wallpaper," written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in the late nineteenth century, explores the dark forbidding world of one woman's plunge into a severe post-partum depressive state. The story presents a theme of the search for self-identity. Through interacting with human beings and the environment, the protagonist creates for herself a life of her own.
Charlotte Gilman, through the first person narrator, speaks to the reader of the stages of psychic disintegration by sharing the narrator's heightened perceptions: "That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don't care--there is something strange about the house--I can feel it" (304). The conflicting emotions of power and control versus loss of control are expressed in her reactions to her husband: "I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. . . .so I take pains to control myself--before him at least, and that makes me very tired" (304). The progressive stages of the narrator's loss of reality are eloquently shown in these passages:
I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors. (305)
This wallpaper has a kind of subpattern. . .I can see a strange provoking, formless sort of figure. (305-6)
It's like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. . . .just as if she wanted to get out. (309-310)
Is this the narrator's attempt to understand the self or soul? To regain an essence of power and understanding of who she is becoming or has become? Is there a larger question here which the reader, through the narrator, must ask? Does not the narrator's disintegration or depression become but a symbol of her search for self? There is a belief, one I personally share, that depression is part of the soul's cycles--a place or time where opposing forces struggle with reason.
In Care of the Soul Thomas More explains this...