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The Yellow wallpaper
Transcript of The Yellow wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper
Although the narrator attempts to follow the treatment plan, she feels that she does need imagination and excitement in her life. In order to have that and make her husband think she is complying with his wishes, she begins to write in a diary to relieve her mind. In the diary she writes mostly about the look of the house and the room that she and her husband decided to stay in. She talks about how beautiful the house is but, she also refers to it as ghostly and says "there is something strange about the house-I can feel it."
John picked an airy, old nursery with barred windows and a bed nailed to the floor for the two of them to stay in. This did not sit well with his wife. She did not hate the room but she hated the wallpaper and every day she grew more fascinated yet disgusted with it. The wallpaper's "pattern" was impossible to follow, it's color was a revolting yellow, and it had been ripped in numerous places.
Every day the narrator studied the wallpaper. She discovered that in certain lighting it had an odd sub pattern that looked like a woman creeping around. There had also been a strange line, scrubbed across the wall, all the way around the room. At night she realized the woman seemed to be behind bars and that she would shake them in the dark patches of the paper and continue creeping or be very still in the light. The narrator then began to see the woman creeping around outside of the house during the day but she was always back behind the bars by nightfall.
The narrator finally locks herself in her room one night while her husband is away and commits herself to letting the poor creeping woman out of the paper. She also has a rope to tie her up if she escapes. The narrator began tearing and biting the paper and declared "no person touches this paper but me-not alive!" She tears all the wallpaper she can reach and continues talking about seeing the creeping women outside.
In later novels, "Herland" and "With Her in Ourland" Gilman used utopian settings to write about the feminist themes she supported. In 1935, she wrote her autobiography and that same year she committed suicide after learning she had developed an inoperable cancer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gilman lived in poverty after her dad left and spent most of her time with with close relatives. Her great aunts Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Catherine Beecher and Isabella Beecher Hooker, two feminist activists, were her most influential relatives.
Gilman grew up believing in independence, so as a young woman she supported herself as an artist and teacher. She later married Charles Walter Stetson and had a daughter which put her life on hold. She found herself slipping into a depression that was borderline madness. Dr. S. Weir Mitchell ordered that Charlotte, the trained commercial artist and writer, could have absolutely no mental stimulation which meant no more writing or painting.
Her condition seemed to worsen after visiting Dr. Mitchell and Gilman began feeling even more trapped by her depression. Eventually, with the help of a friend, she became active again. Gilman ended her marriage, moved to California with her mother and daughter and began writing short stories and poetry. She wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" about her break down and unsuccessful treatment, which is considered "a classic of feminist literature."
In the 1890's Charlotte followed in her aunts' footsteps and became a women's rights activist. She wrote the book "Women and Economics," which talked about women breaking free from an oppressive, male-dominated society by gaining economic independence. In 1900, she married her first cousin and continued to advocate a new role for women in society.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" was written during a time of change in America. For centuries women had been in their homes cooking, cleaning, taking care of children and keeping domestic ideals alive. By the end of the eighteenth century women's rights issues were becoming a hot topic. It was during this time that famous women's rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton, held the Seneca Falls convention that helped promote a new role for women in society. During the early nineteenth century the concept of "The New Woman" came about, better known as flappers. Flappers had shorter hair, wore make up and skimpier clothes, smoked, drank and created a new image for women. "The New Woman" pushed for broader roles outside of the home to showcase her other skills and talents.
Gilman was an unusual person born into an equally peculiar family. Her father Frederick was a magazine editor and librarian. He abandoned his family when Charlotte was a baby and her then single mother Mary Ann, deliberately withheld affection from her children so they would be more emotionally self-reliant. Charlotte and her siblings were also not allowed to read fiction or make close friends because of her mother.
The unnamed narrator and her husband arrive at the colonial mansion they rented for their vacation. The narrator has recently been diagnosed with a nervous disorder and in order for her to recover she must have no mental stimulation and plenty of fresh air. Her husband, John, does not believe that his wife is truly sick but, he and his sister Jennie still make her follow the doctor's orders.
"One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin." (pg. 154)
"Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard." (pg. 166)
After a great effort to let the creeping woman out of the paper. The narrator identifies herself as the woman trapped behind the paper. Her husband John comes home to find his wife lurking around the room over bits of torn wallpaper and then over himself after he faints.
"I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jennie. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back." (pg. 170)
"Now why should that man have fainted?
but he did, and right across my path by the wall,
so that I had to creep over him every time!" (pg. 170)
In the beginning of this first person narrative, we learn that the narrator has recently developed some sort of nervous disorder. As the story progresses so does her condition and her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her room. Throughout the story the narrator writes mostly factual things about her condition, her husband, and the house they are renting. She also begins describing the house and the room she is staying in. She always shares contrasting views of each other the things she describes but they are always but they are always very open opinions until the end. Slowly we see her become fixated on the wallpaper and it seems to be all she can think about. She bases her writings and life on understanding the paper and the woman who is trapped behind it. When she decides that she is the only one who will be figuring out the pattern of the odd wallpaper and setting the woman free her writings become more secretive and mysterious. By the end the story becomes rushed and urgent because the narrator identifies herself as the woman who is being trapped and she must let herself out immediately.
Eve Ackroyd, Double Portrait, 2012
Gabriella Boyd, Between These Eight Walls, 2012
"The Yellow Wallpaper" was an eye opening short story. At first I thought it was only showing how the narrator slipped deeply into madness because of her confinement to a room with ugly wallpaper but of course it has much more meaning than that. After reading, I saw that the author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, had written the story based off her own experiences and struggles. The major theme is breaking free from the oppression of women by a male-dominated society. The woman that the narrator claims to see lurking behind the wallpaper represents herself. The wallpaper that the woman is stuck behind represents the narrator's husband and the doctor's orders that were keeping her from exploring her imagination and making her illness worsen. This story was written in a time when women were trying to break free from traditional domestic roles that had been around for centuries. So, it does not only share one woman's struggle against oppression, but symbolizes the entire female population and what they wanted to accomplish. By tearing off all of the wallpaper in the room so that the narrator cannot be put back behind it she is showing that women have the ability to free themselves from their lives as housewives. They can take on bigger roles in society, become independent and can speak for themselves.
Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Trans. Array Great American Stories. Austin: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1991. 151-170. Print.