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The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis

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Danny Zhang

on 25 April 2014

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Transcript of The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: "The Yellow Wallpaper" 1. What historical information is important to understanding this story? 2.How does gender affect the story’s outcome? 3.Does the narrator suffer from a mental disorder or is her illness compounded by society’s expectations and stereotypes about gender? 6. How is the narrator defeated by the story’s end? How is the narrator triumphant? In order to properly comprehend the story, it’s essential to know of the limited medical knowledge and dominantly patriarchal views of the time.
Women were viewed as the weaker of the sexes
It was popular opinion that women should be calm, docile, and obedient of their husbands.
Many women of the time, when showing symptoms similar to those of the narrator in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ were given what was called the ‘rest cure,’
which was developed by a one Doctor Weir Mitchell Throughout the entirety of The Yellow Wallpaper, gender roles lurk beneath the subtext, always a nagging reminder of the inequality of the time period.
It is manifested both within the actions of both the male and female figures of the story as shown by the narrator’s triumphant declaration of getting “out at last in spite of [John] and Jane” (Gilman 10).
The significance of this statement’s placement at the story’s conclusion is that the narrator escaping the “revolting[ly] sickly sulphur” of the wallpaper which had been her tormentor is analogous to her renouncing the patriarchal tyranny of her husband and his sister (Gilman 2). In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator suffers from a mental disorder combined society’s expectations and stereotypes about women.
Living in a patriarchal society, the “sick” narrator, who represents women, is confined in a small room with a yellow wallpaper which shows “a great many women behind, and sometimes only one” (Gilman 1,7).
John, who represents men “and also of high standing”, orders the narrator into a room ultimately demonstrating how men in society subdues women (Gilman 1).
Women like Jennie are faced with the stereotype that all women are “perfect and enthusiastic housekeepers, and hope for no better profession” (Gilman 3). Defeated:The wallpaper is, essentially, the origin of the narrator’s problems, and ultimately, the reason for her defeat at the end of the story. The rest cure consisted of isolating the woman in her bedroom, with no source of entertainment or outside influences.
This can be seen as a result of the patriarchal nature of the time,
seeing as it furthered attempts to placate women back into their roles as gentle, quiet creatures, or a facet of the lacking medical knowledge.
Since it took place in the late 1800s, the medical knowledge was very limited.
Doctors of the time “accepted the idea that a woman’s energy was centered around her reproductive organs.” Since it did take place in the late 1800s, the medical knowledge was very limited.
There was no way the doctors of the time could have known about the myriad of diseases that she could have had
manic-depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or depression, to name a few. Also by “pull[ing] off most of the paper, so [John] can’t put [her] back,” the narrator draws striking similarities between her freedom and refusal to be subjected back to her submissive state (Gilman 10).
John’s fainting at the end of the story coupled with the narrator having to “creep over him every time”
in the same manner that she and the women of the wallpaper crept symbolizes her overstepping the boundaries of her gender placed on her by her chauvinistic husband and her thumbing her nose at the idea of her insanity by continuing in the mannerisms of her hallucinations (Gilman 10). 4.What does the wallpaper symbolize in this story? In the beginning of the story, the wallpaper is first merely unpleasant. Although, as the story goes on, the narrator becomes more intrigued and disgusted with the pattern causing her to see figures beneath the actual pattern.
These figures were thought by her to be women trapped in the wallpaper “like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind [the] pattern” which could symbolize a cage or ‘prison’ (Gilman 5). The narrator is able to relate to herself and how she is ‘imprisoned’ within her home with John, she even wishes for “John [to] take [her] away from [there].” She is left having to suffer societies stereotype of the role women should play and common medical beliefs during that time period (Gilman 5).
With the wallpaper symbolizing a mental prison, the narrators condition is able to deteriorate even further aided by the misused practices of the rest cure by her husband
5. Is John responsible for the narrator’s descent into madness? John doesn’t hold sole responsibility for the narrator’s condition. This is due to the fact that she already had some sort of condition, which only grew worse as the moved into the home.
John was caring and used nicknames such as “goose” and truly wanted what was best for her
this is why he made the decision the move to a new house for a few months, because he thought it would better his wife’s condition.
John only implemented the rest cure because it was standard medical procedure during that time period and was known to work on patients who have gone mad.
He can not be blamed for this, because it was not him who created the rest cure, he only followed what other physicians before him have used. As to the development of her condition, John was not aware of that because every time he came around, the narrator chose to keep her thoughts inside her head and to herself.
He believed she was improving and “assured friends and relatives that there [was] nothing the matter with [her] but temporary nervous depression-a slight hysterical tendency...” (Gilman 1).
She felt as if her condition was more severe than that, although if John was convinced then “what is one to do?” (Gilman 1).
She was not letting him know what she was thinking, preventing him from seeing any progress in her madness, leaving him to believe that she was only getting better. Triumphant:
The narrator becomes triumphant
as she realizes that she is the one behind the wall paper. The narrator falls further and further into fascination with the wallpaper, and in the process, she slowly disassociates from her day to day life. This separation from her world comes as she decides to keep a diary that will be “a relief to her mind,” which served as her escape from the world that allowed her to keep her sanity (Gilman 12). An example would be when the narrator doesn’t understand the yellow stain on her clothing and the long “smootch” on the wallpaper are connected. She even fights the realization that the woman in the wallpaper mirrors her own situation. She, at first, disapproves of the woman’s efforts to escape, even wanting to “tie her up”. From that point, she hides herself from the world and falls into her own fantasy world. Gilman is able to show this disconnect by making the narrator puzzle over the effects in the world that she has created. The narrator becomes aware that the person behind the wallpaper is not only a reflection of herself but women that are oppressed and forced to live in the domestic lifestyles that they are forced to accept.
With this realization, the narrator rips down the wallpaper, metaphorically, setting the women subject to the oppressive nature of society free. For centuries, societies all over the world perceive and expect women to be nurturing, loving, and obedient. However, the narrator fails to break the example of a stereotypical women because “[John] hates to have [her] write a word” (Gilman 2).
The narrator feels depressed and tired. Ultimately, speaking, the rest cure represents the subjugation of the narrator by her husband and women by men respectively
Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper to show the evils of the rest cure and ultimately, the evils of men driving women insane by confinement.
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