Feminist Perspective On Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper

1421 words - 6 pages

The Yellow Wallpaper, Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is comprised as an assortment of journal entries written in first person, by a woman who has been confined to a room by her physician husband who he believes suffers a temporary nervous depression, when she is actually suffering from postpartum depression. He prescribes her a “rest cure”. The woman remains anonymous throughout the story. She becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper that surrounds her in the room, and engages in some outrageous imaginations towards the wallpaper. Gilman’s story depicts women’s struggle of independence and individuality at the rise of feminism, as well as a reflection of her own life and experiences.
During that time, Mental illness and depression was not generally understood. Outspoken women were diagnosed with "hysteria" and put on bed rest. The woman gradually goes insane when she is put on bed rest for all hours of everyday. It is a criticism of a medical practice that was created solely for women, which is one reason for it being considered a feminist story. She was thought to be delicate and predisposed to emotional outbreaks. The story explains that the bed rest and the views that supplement such a practice, is what makes women hysterical.
Gilman’s narration advocates the slow development into insanity and growing frustration that accompanies it. With each entry the woman writes, it was apparent as to how her mental pain she endured was taking over her mind and behavior as the days passed. “This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then. But in the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so—I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design” (Gilman 2). This statement signifies how her unstable state of mind was more clearly apparent at night, which is when she lays awake at night intrigued by what she sees within the wallpaper. She eventually sees the women who appear to be stuck within the wallpaper. At the end, when she realizes she must save the women, she really comprehends that she is one of them and must save herself from the suffocation and control she has been confined to for some time. Symbolically, the woman behind the yellow wallpaper is her inner self, the powerful woman who is independent and strong and resists being locked in.
“There comes John, and I must put this away, --he hates to have me write a word”
(Gilman 1). The woman’s husband forbade her to write or do any kind of work. He didn’t approve of her doing any work until she had fully recovered. Although writing made her feel better, she would never say anything to him about it. She completely lacks in self-confidence, thinking that none of her opinions matter at all. She obeys any order her husband has laid out for her. The woman seems to have a clear view as to what...

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