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The Yellow Wallpaper: The Story That Changed How Women And Mental Illness Were Veiwed

2391 words - 10 pages

“The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story that surrounds many different topics. The narrator is living in a time period where women were looked down upon and mental illnesses were misunderstood. The narrator of the story suffers from post-partum depression and is recording her journey in a journal. Her husband, the typical man at the time, put her on “the rest cure,” as he believed that mental illnesses should be treated like physical illnesses. He brings her to a house far away from other people and makes her stay in the nursery. The nursery had shabby yellow wallpaper which sickened her, but intrigued her at the same time. The rest cure was basically confinement, both physically and mentally. She was deprived of any form of creativity, this included writing, which was one of the things that kept her sane. This “cure” eventually leads to the decrease of her mental stability as she becomes more and more obsessed with the wallpaper. In order to convey a story with so many themes lots of literary devices were used. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses symbolism and characterization to explore themes about the lack of understanding of women and their mental health.
The narrator of the story, though unnamed, represents a stereotypical woman with mental illnesses in that day and age. “Many details, like the lack of a name, argue against her individuality,” (Ford 1). The story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is told through a woman’s journal and shows first-hand what the path to insanity feels like. It is written in first person to better expose the narrator’s thoughts and feelings. ““The Yellow Wallpaper” is an example of a first person narrative because it is told exclusively from the viewpoint of the unnamed protagonist, and the reader is given access only to her thoughts and emotions,” (Wilson 7). The story is written in the first person in order to show the descent into madness but as we only see her view point it is hard to decipher whether or not what she says in regards to the plot is valid especially as she begins to be more and more intrigued by the wallpaper. “Since the protagonist is suffering a mental breakdown, she is also considered an unreliable narrator because the reader cannot be certain if she is accurately relating the events of the story,” (Wilson 7).
The narrator is portraying a woman who is looked down upon because of her mental illness, but women at the time were often seen as childish or too emotional. “Then he took me in his arms called me a blessed little goose,” (Gilman 5). The narrator’s husband, John, treats her almost like a father would treat a daughter. The narrator is belittled because of her inability to act like women at the time were expected to. “Victorian values stressed that women were to behave demurely and remain with in the domestic sphere,” (Wilson 6). During the 19th century, women were expected to simply care for the children and clean the house. Most of the time, women...

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