Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 5

Cintron 1

Janely Cintron Professor Angie Jacobs ENC 1102 4/17/14

The Mind Trapped Inside: Womens Struggles in Charlotte Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper

Women will always be essential in society, however, for centuries men have always been considered superior. The Yellow Wallpaper depicts a story of a young woman married to a physician. She is exiled from the outside world due to her sick state of health. The story never mentions the narrators name, nor the specific setting; yet, there is enough basic information to grasp the storys various themes. The protagonist suffers from post-partum depression as a result of the birth of her first child; her husband determines that the only remedy is to cease any kind of mental and physical activity. Alas, the protagonist moves to an old home for a couple of months while her husband works during the day in a nearby town. At first sight of the house, the unnamed narrator describes the temporary home as haunted. Unfortunately, her husband has her confined to a room that used to be a nursery ("The Yellow Wallpaper." 5). The horrid boredom of doing nothing all day and writing thoughts and feelings in a hidden journal causes the narrator to do the extraordinary; thus, causing her to bring the wallpaper to life in her mind. The unusual story of The Yellow Wallpaper, while portraying how women in the nineteenth century were ignorantly mistreated; also illustrates the meaning behind the actual wallpaper, as well as conflicts being dealt in typical marriages when the male is dominant. The yellow wallpaper in the main room of the house is the most significant symbol throughout the whole short story. Symbolism is portrayed in various ways, starting with the narrators irrational hatred towards the wallpaper. Allegedly, the wall had a despicable odor

Cintron 2

along with an obscene shade of yellow. Throughout the story, the woman kept writing in her journal what she thought about the wallpapers design. At one point she came to the conclusion that, the paper [had] two levels, a front pattern and a shadowy figure trapped behind its bars (Hudock 3). Alas, the narrator was convinced that there was another woman confined inside the wall, who sneaked out during the day. In between the lines, the woman inside the wallpaper was the narrators freedom and expression. That was the only way she could express her imagination, since in reality, her husband banned all outside communication. John, the narrators husband treated his wife to strict bed rest, ignoring his wifes multiple pleas to go back home. John thought that he was doing the best for his wife, when truly, her mental health was declining. Ironically, the author of this short story had a reason behind The Yellow Wallpaper, which was to hear out Dr. S. Weird Mitchell, a real life neurologist who treated Gilman with rest cure. Rest cure consisted of minimal physical activity and extensive bed rest. As a result, the rest cure only worsened Gilmans emotional difficulties. That is why Gilman founded the story, in order to make Dr. Mitchel realize how many patients prescribed with the rest cure feel from such abomination. Consequently, the wallpaper represents the state or mind of the protagonist ("The Yellow Wallpaper." 7) as well as oppression to a woman trapped in her roles as wife and mother ("The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." 123). On the other hand, the conflict felt in the story by the narrator is between herself and her husband, John. Some women tend to be submissive, therefore, abide to rules and commands. In this story, the narrators husband treats her like a child and she does nothing about it. There is an unequal relationship a microcosm of the larger gender inequity in society (Hudock 3). This

Cintron 3

exemplifies the concept of creativity versus reality, when men stand over women; in this case, John keeping his wife inside a room for months and in other terms telling her that it is for her own good. The struggles the narrator experiences is consisted of despair and madness, since, it is believed that society discourages women of creative self-expression ("The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." 123). She tries to remain sane by writing in her journal, nonetheless, the fascination towards the wallpaper breaks the barrier and generates intrigue. The narrator is swallowed by the wallpapers sketchy patterns and design, thus allowing her to imagine her own world where she sees things that do not exist. That is the only escape to the oppression she is left with alongside her husband. Furthermore, Charlotte Perkins Gilman integrated her traumatic life experiences in the story. Not having her father around for much of her childhood has led to keeping in contact most of the time with her three suffragist and independent aunts, Their influence developing Gilmans feminist convictions desire to effect social reform (Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). 116). This has molded Gilman into a feminist reformist herself, fighting for womens rights and individuality. Unfortunately, women back in the nineteenth century, as well as today, may still be considered dependent, not the result of biological inferiority, but rather of culturally enforced behavior ("Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)." 116). Misogyny experienced in many cultures has leaded to oppression and gender inequality. The relationship between the narrator and her husband/physician is tedious; since, John is the provider, protector, and dominant figure, the narrator is obliged to following his orders. The narrator rarely has the chance to go out and enjoy an evening with her husband nor her family. The emotions felt by the narrator of, The repression of female individuality and sexuality ("The Yellow Wallpaper." 5) is part of what drives her to pay more attention in the wallpaper than in reality.

Cintron 4

Aside from The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman has proved to the world, through her writing, that women have a say in society and men are not the only ones who get the throne. At the ending of the story, the narrator becomes so zealous with the wallpaper in the room that she decides to lock up the house in order to have some alone time with the wall. Before her husband gets home, she starts ripping off the wallpaper in pursue of the mysterious woman behind it. As soon as her husband, John, found the keys to the entrance and spotted his wife ravaging wallpaper off every corner of the room, he fainted, leaving his wife no choice but to tiptoe over his body. Gilman added this surprising twist to the story as a reminder that confining a woman to four walls, in other words, confining a woman to freedom of expression and independence will drive a woman out of her boundaries.

All in all, several conclusions can be extracted from The Yellow Wallpaper; however, the story mostly ties in with the imbalanced treatment on women from men. Since back then, Gilman was a leading feminist and social activist ("The Yellow Wallpaper." 9), she generated as much of her social ideas to the audience. There were other stories similar to Charlotte Gilmans writings, The Awakening (1899) [faced] similar damaging definitions of womanhood commits suicide (Hudock 5). In The Awakening, the protagonist takes away her life as a way of escaping the suffering of an unequal relationship with a man she falls in love with. Compared to the story being analyzed, women generally undergo hardships, some overpass it and others remain in the limbo. Gilman wanted to point out that society needs to stop depending on men for everything and start giving women the chance to speak up. The woman inside the yellow wallpaper does not actually reflect the narrators insanity, but the effort to strive and be free.

Cintron 5

Works Cited

"Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)." Short Story Criticism. Ed. David Siegel. Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993. 116-176. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. . 2 April 2014 Hudock, Amy E. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Masterplots II: Womens Literature Series (1995): 13. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper The Norton Introduction to Literature. 11th ed. Ed. Kelly J Mays. New York: Norton, 2012. 478-489. Print. "The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 62. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 122-229. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. 2 April 2014 "The Yellow Wallpaper." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 277-293. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.