The Yellow Wallpaper: Setting, Symbolism and Oppression of Women
Have you ever been locked in a dark closet? You grope about trying to feel the doorknob, straining to see a thin beam of light coming from underneath the door. As the darkness consumes you, you feel as if you will suffocate. There is a sensation of helplessness and hopelessness. Loneliness, caused by oppression, is like the same darkness that overtakes its victim. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in "The Yellow Wallpaper," recounts the story of a young mother who travels to a summer home to "rest" from her nervous condition. Her bedroom is an old nursery covered with ugly, yellow wallpaper. The more time she spends alone, the more she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper's patterns. She begins to imagine a woman behind bars in the paper. Finally, she loses her sanity and believes that she is the woman in the wallpaper, trying to escape. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses setting and symbolism to suggest that imprisoning oppression causes a type of loneliness (in women) that can lead to a deadly form of insanity.
Gilman uses setting to suggest that imprisoning oppression causes a type of loneliness that can lead to insanity. Gilman's young mother describes the nursery bedroom "with windows that ... [are] barred for little children" (426). In the above passage, the barred windows seem to intensify her oppression, and her perception that she is being imprisoned. Gilman also uses the young woman's description of the summer home to express her feeling of being all alone. "It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock" (425). By employing the phrases "quite alone" and "hedges and walls and gates that lock," the reader can sense the lonely and isolated feeling that victims of oppression often feel. Another significant reference to the imprisoning oppression is found in the young woman's hallucinations about the wallpaper. "At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be" (432). This setting passage shows how the loneliness caused by the oppression provokes the woman to cross over the line of reality to insanity.