In the last half of the 19th Century, through the early 20th
Century, was a movement that many have all but forgotten. Gone and nearly
forgotten was a quiet revolution, of sorts, that liberated women from not
only the psychological oppressions they faced, but also to have equal
rights. The movement is known as Women’s Suffrage. Thanks to authors such
as Calum Kerr, whose literary analyses known as, “Literary Contexts in
Short Stories: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, many will
not forget the challenges women faced. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” written by
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, portrays a woman suffering from a mild
psychological disorder, known today as Postpartum Depression. The title of
the story is befitting as it shows the psychological oppression the main
character, whose name was never revealed, dealt with from her husband and
the controversial treatment she was prescribed. She was brought to an
abandoned stately manor for rest and relaxation over the course of a summer
by doctor’s orders. The doctor just happened to also be her husband. He
prescribed her a psychological treatment known as “the rest cure.” Rest and
relaxation, however, was not what she received. She spends her days
obsessing with the wallpaper in which she was immediately repulsed by. Her
obsession with the wallpaper’s pattern and putrid color of yellow turns a
mild case of depression into a pronounced state of hysteria.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” was published in 1892. It was welcomed with dismal
reviews. “The Atlantic Monthly” magazine rejected the story saying, “it was
enough to make the reader miserable.” (Kerr) Such criticisms prove how
little acceptance women faced during that period. The intellect of women
simply was not given much credit. Today, we can look back at such stories
and see the horror women felt from the social oppression that bound them.
We can appreciate, with unfortunate gratitude, that critics such as Kerr
allow us to never forget the historical value in such writings.
Kerr points out the historical context of Gilman’s story in his analyses.
Allowing the reader to know the history hidden within the lines of the
story, gives the reader a deeper understanding of what Gilman was trying to
convey. He brings to attention that Gilman was the great niece of two very
important figures in women’s lib. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine
Beecher were two pinnacle figures in history that Gilman just happened to
be descended from. The reader, with those facts, can realize the context of
the story is a woman trying to break free of the social bondage placed upon
her. It also allows the reader to see how pivotal Gilman herself was in
liberating women to be accepted as an equal part of society.
Another key element in understanding Gilman’s story is the fact she never
reveals the main character’s name. Written from a first person perspective
gives the reader an account of what was going on within the...