The Setting For Insanity In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"

1092 words - 4 pages

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" illustrates that being excluded from the public and locked away in solitary confinement causes insanity. Gilman uses setting to convey this point throughout the story.The unnamed woman in this story is told that she is suffering from a nervous disorder. Her husband takes her to a colonial mansion far away from her normal environment. He believes that taking her to a different environment will cure her of her illness. When she arrives at the mansion she thinks it is a beautiful place but feels that there is something eerie about it. She states "there is something strange about the house- I can feel it."(538). This statement implies that inside she knows that this so called treatment will eventually drive her insane. One of the significant settings is the mansion's "beautiful shaded lane" (540), which runs to a little private wharf. In her mind, she envisions this as a path that leads her to long lost happiness. The word "shaded" leads one to believe that she is unclear if this long lost happiness is accessible.The woman is forced to stay in an old nursery room in spite of her wishes. She longs to be in a more lively room down stairs. This is a room she describes as "opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings" (538). She longs to be there but her husband "would not hear of it" (538). According an essay by Jeannine Lawall, "John knew that his wife was loosing her mind and so chose this safe room over the prettier (and possibly healthier) rooms downstairs." He believes the less excitement she has, the better her recovery will be. Lawall also points out that "this nursery is reminiscent of the attics to which insane people were often confined in the days before doctors realized that mental illnesses could be cured or controlled by proper treatment." There are bars on the on the windows and the bed is nailed to the floor. This fact provides an image of seclusion and loneliness experienced by the woman. According Liselle Sant, "One specific characteristic of the house that symbolizes not only her potential but also her trapped feeling is the window." The condition of being trapped within a small, closed in room will enhance her instability.The moment the woman moves into the mansion's nursery, she immediately despises the wallpaper. The woman describes the wallpaper as having "sprawling, flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin"(539). After a while she starts to become obsessed and only writes of the yellow wallpaper. She tries to follow the pattern. It is almost as if she is trying to escape her own sadness. She states, "The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction." She is wearing herself out, and making her condition worse by following and trying to figure out the pattern. While thinking she is searching for an end to the pattern,...

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