Feminist Expression In The Yellow Wallpaper

1345 words - 6 pages

A woman driven crazy by post partum depression and a dangerous treatment summarizes the short story of “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The story was influenced by the 19th century women’s depression and their vision of life. Through phantasmagoric symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman is able to speak volumes on the destruction and autonomy of feminist self-expression, the restrictions of gender roles, and the patriarchal paradigm.
Advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men, Charlotte Perkins Gilman speaks to the “female condition” in her 1892 short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by writing about the life of a woman and what caused her to lose her sanity. The narrator goes crazy due partially to her prescribed role as a woman in 1892 being severely limited. One example is her being forbidden by her husband to “work” which includes working and writing. This restricts her from begin able to express how she truly feels. While she is forbidden to work her husband on the other hand is still able to do his job as a physician. This makes the narrator inferior to her husband and males in general. The narrator is unable to be who she wants, do what she wants, and say what she wants without her husband’s permission. This causes the narrator to feel trapped and have no way out, except through the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom.
The narrator becomes obsessed with the wallpaper which causes her to believe the paper is moving. She states, “The front pattern does move – and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” The narrator believes there are many women behind the yellow wallpaper, but only one can crawl around, the woman strangles to climb through the yellow paper due to the pattern of it. She starts to believe the woman can only come out during daytime, because the narrator “can see her out all of every one of her windows.” This entrapment symbolizes the women behind the wallpaper as actually being the narrator trapped in her own cage of patriarchal oppression. The narrator so desperately wants to escape, yet she is constantly stifled by her husband’s restrictions. The narrator finally let’s herself go, she uninhibitedly gives in to herself and allows her feelings to be expressed. She enjoys looking at and playing with the wallpaper and she no longer cares what anyone thinks. "Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it". At culmination of the story the narrator finally “escapes her cage”, “I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” It can be deduced that the narrator—though driven past the brink of madness –has, perhaps, found freedom in losing all hope, now able to “creep over him every time!” the one who had been stepping on her. Post-Enlightenment Feminist sentiments are heavy throughout the text and can be seen consistently through the...

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