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The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Gilman

2629 words - 11 pages

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman makes adamant statements about feminism and the oppression of women during the 19th century. This story allows the reader to see into the mind of a woman who is slowly going insane and suffering from postpartum depression. During the 19th century, women were forced into a certain stereotype, that of wife and mother. Women were not allowed to express and challenge themselves the way men were. Just as the narrator of the story is trapped in her room, women are trapped in pretentious acts that do not allow them to explore their creativity and intelligence. Gilman displays how easily one can go insane when they are suppressed by a patriarchal society. Gilman’s illustration of a subordinate wife, fully dominated by her husband, proposes a sense of gender stereotypes, as well as the treatments prescribed for the mentally ill; as the narrator is forced to become unproductive, John continues to act superior to his wife and treat her like a prisoner and child.
An example of John’s feelings of superiority over Jane, is shown in how he adores the fact that she is a weak woman, who depends greatly on him. Throughout the story her behaviors exhibit that she feels inferior to her husband. Jane obeys every command John gives without asking any questions. Jane delivers, “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (Gilman 474). Jane is forbidden to complete tasks on her own. Jane’s feelings of inferiority are deeply rooted from being under her husband’s complete control. Jane explains, “I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!”(Gilman 474). John does everything for his wife, but she is not allowed to do anything for him because he does not allow her to do so. John is in control of Jane all the time. He honestly believes that his wife is dramatizing her illness and there is nothing wrong with her, so he ignores the issue that ultimately leads to his wife’s insanity. Meanwhile, during the story, the reader can assume that the narrator’s opinion is not heard. Jane asks her husband if she can move to a different room and he refuses her request because he can and has complete authority over her. John as her husband and physician puts Jane in susceptible positions. This shows how much worth and intellect he considers his wife to possess. Gilman clearly demonstrates how mistreated women were during the 19th century, through dialogue from the viewpoint of a patriarchal society.
The most evident case of John’s attempt to imprison his mentally unstable wife is how he confines her to the estate far from friends, family, and their newly born baby. As part of the “rest-cure” treatment, the narrator is not authorized by her husband to leave the estate. Although, John arrives and leaves, and occasionally stays out all night caring for his patients, his wife is not permitted the same privilege....

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