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Oppression Of Women Depicted In The Yellow Wallpaper

1539 words - 6 pages

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman shows that the American principle
of liberty did not apply to all Americans in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth century. Specifically it shows that this principle was
not given to women. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman shows that
American society at the time was oppressive toward women and
that it was dangerous for women to fight back. She establishes a
female narrator that is oppressed literally and symbolically by the
men in her life and the society she lives in. This oppression causes
the narrator, who is suffering from what is probably a post-partum
depression, to sink lower and lower into the depths of insanity. Her
cries for help go unheeded by her husband and she eventually loses
sanity completely. On a symbolic level, this failure of the narrator to
survive in the face of societal oppression can be seen as a warning
to society. Gilman was warning the men of society that they could
not continue to deny women opportunities for equality without
suffering the consequences.

Gilman's female narrator, who either chooses not to fight for her
rights or was unable to do so, loses her sanity at the hands of her
well-meaning husband. Her depression is unexplainable to her and
her husband, who is a doctor. In fact, neither her husband nor her
brother, who is also a doctor, believes that she is even sick. The
narrator feels certain that the "rest cure" prescribed by her husband
is not working. She says that the men in her life are wrong to limit
her activity. She feels that she could escape her depression if given
the chance. "Personally, I disagree with their ideas . . . I believe that
congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good".
But despite this knowledge, the narrator does not act out against
what she believes to be the incorrect ideas of the men who confine
her and make her mental illness worse. Her husband's numerous
attempts to restrain and confine her only serve to worsen her
condition.

Throughout "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman shows not only the
restraint and confinement of the narrator, but also, symbolically, the
restraint and confinement of females in American society of the
time. The narrator is imprisoned in the room that contains the
yellow wallpaper. The house that contains it is surrounded by hedges
and "gates that lock". At the top of the stairs is a gate that keeps
the narrator from leaving the top floor. The windows of the room
itself are barred. The narrator is kept in this room without possibility
for escape, much as women of American society at the time were
kept in "their place" without possibility for escape. She is kept to a
rigid schedule each day that she is not allowed to deviate from. Both
the narrator and women of the time were often considered to not
know enough to make intelligent decisions for them. Women in
general and the narrator specifically, were considered to be...

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