Feminist Aspects of The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman can by read in many different ways. Some think of it as a tragic horror story while others may find it to be a tale of a woman trying to find her identity in a male-dominated society. The story is based on an episode in Gilman's life when she suffered from a nervous disease called melancholia. A male specialist advised her to "live a domestic a life as far as possible.. and never to touch a pen, brush or pencil..." (Gilman, 669). She lived by these guidelines for three months until she came close to suffering from a nervous breakdown. Gilman then decided to continue writing, despite the physicians advice, and overcame her illness. By writing The Yellow Wallpaper, she attempted to save others who suffered from her illness.
The story takes place in the late eighteen hundreds (published in 1892), a time when feminism was at a rise. Many connections can be made between the characteristics of this time period and images in the story. These include the main character's creative outlet, the main character's suppression by her husband, and the image of the woman behind the bars in the later half of the story.
Throughout the story, the narrator who is a woman diagnosed by her physician husband as "sick" finds a creative outlet by writing. She expressed her need to express herself in some way by stating, " I don't know why I should write this... but I must say I feel and think in some way it is such a relief.. I must put it this way- he (John) hates for me to write a word " (Gilman 662). We can see how her husband kept her in a subordinate position as she was restricted from letting out her creative energy. Many women of the same time period felt this way as they lead their lives in a male-dominated society where their lives were limited to the home, not the workforce. Women struggled with society to gain status equal to men and their efforts were found in many literary works.. Famous authors such as Mary Wollestonecraft, Alice Walker, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself published works that expressed these views and served as a creative outlet similar to the narrator...