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The Yellow Wallpaper: Fighting The Oppression

969 words - 4 pages

During the late 1800’s, the oppression of women was far too common, and while some women accepted this inequality, others realized the injustice and made the first steps to exposing the ugly truth and creating the society in which we live today: where single-sex dominance is frowned upon and equality is fought for publically and proudly. The author of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gillman, was one of these strong-headed women who, despite living amongst a society who knew no different, believed that a woman should be permitted to live her life alongside her husband-or alone if so chose- instead of under his reproachful stare and dominating thumb. She voiced this through the overwhelming symbolism threaded throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper,” choosing both animate and inanimate characters to each symbolically represent a piece of the oppression system.
The oppressive force is symbolized in the nature of the narrator’s husband, John. Nearly every mention of John is coupled with the details of his belittling her feelings of nervousness, and insisting that she is not sick and that a few months of bed rest would cure her of her nervous mind. His suggested cure screams oppression, recommending that she not do any sort of physical work or mental strain. John controls nearly every aspect of his wife’s life, including her daily leisurely activities; the narrator seems to enjoy writing, for instance, but when she hears her husband approaching she quickly puts her writings away, claiming, “There comes John, and I must put this away—he hates to see me write a word” (674). John often refers to her as a “little girl,” implying that she is a young child in need of care and guidance instead of the grown, fully capable woman that she is (678). Every aspect of the narrator’s day is dictated by her husband and her creativity and will to express herself is oppressed by his overbearing demeanor.
Oppression itself is represented by the yellow wallpaper. Throughout the story, the wallpaper itself becomes an entity, develops its own characteristics, and begins to characterize oppression itself. At first it seems merely unpleasant, described as a ripped, soiled, and “unclean yellow.” The narrator focuses on the hideous wallpaper and tries incessantly to determine the organization of the utterly abstract pattern. After staring for hours the narrator begins to spot a “marked peculiarity…that changes as the light changes;” by moonlight, this “peculiarity” became more pronounced, and revealed itself as a woman who crawls around the room, behind the pattern of the wallpaper which has come to resemble the bars of a cage, seemingly searching for a “place to climb through” (679, 681). Alongside the woman who relentlessly attempts to get out of the cage, the narrator can see the heads of the many women that had tried to get through the pattern before, but were strangled by the pattern before they managed to reach the other side. The...

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