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"The Yellow Wallpaper"

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Gaelyn Rosenberg

on 5 March 2014

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Transcript of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Behind
"The Yellow Wallpaper"

Gender Roles Within Marriage: Subdued Knowledge & Intellectual Expression

2. The narrator says, "Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do?" (p. 648) as well as "I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time...I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion...The effort is getting to be greater than the relief...It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight." (pp. 650-651) What feelings does the narrator describe?
Gender Assumptions
"It was a nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge, for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls." (p. 648) What inferences can you make about the narrator's status from the described setting and imagery say? How does it generalize the gender assumptions about women in the late nineteenth century?
Symbolism
The narrator describes her feelings about the wallpaper as "repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow...It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others" (p. 649) and "I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere." (pp. 649-650) What atmosphere does the wallpaper create? What is the wallpaper beginning to symbolize and what effect is it beginning to have on her mental health? What mental condition is she beginning to manifest?
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Institution of Marriage
1. Early in the story, the narrator says “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” (first page) What comment does this make about the role of women in marriage? What gender assumption does it establish/reinforce?
Story was originally published in 1892 and takes place in the late nineteenth century
The narrator's statement here is ironic--why would one expect their spouse to laugh at his or her concerns?
The role of women in marriage, then, is subdued. It is muted by the husband's desire to exercise control on his wife, to hold her hostage behind the "walls" of this unforgiving institution called marriage--to keep her docile, submissive; caged inside a gender role that is perpetually reinforced by nineteenth-century societal ideals, expectations
The assumption here is that women are incapable of fulfilling the duties her husband is naturally fit for. The narrator is forbidden from writing because this act requires intellectual stimulation, the act of thinking, doing, being. But a woman, let alone a wife, should
never
engage in such an activity. No, it is damaging, unnatural--it will prevent the narrator from getting better. It will only tire her more. She is fit for the domestic needs of a household; the duties of a wife are limited because a woman is limited in her power, her capabilities
All of this, of course, is false. And Gilman, utilizing her narrator's voice to convey her opinion, does an incredible job of undermining the institution of marriage and uprooting it from the commonalities of nineteenth-century social norms. Gilman employs the narrator's mentally ill character to not only falsify the notions mentioned above, but to also illuminate the reasons for which the narrator is experiencing a deep depressive state. Additionally, Gilman highlights the inferiority of married women, ironically, through the method of written word, testament
The narrator is, in the larger sense, expressing feelings of dissent towards marriage. However, more specifically, she's referring to the limited roles that women possess due to their perceived lack of knowledge or inability to engage in intellectual activities
In the first quote we see the narrator's immobility; despite her desire to work, the narrator asks her journal for an answer to the question: "But what is one to do?" (p. 648). Evidently, Gilman is really asking her audience this question. What can a woman do when she is stuck in a societal rut?--She's hopeless because she's deemed hopeless, not because she is
And, what's more, she cry's without much reason because that's about the only form of expression she can freely exploit. Crying, though, is a form of weakness, thereby feeding back into the notion that as a wife, as a woman, the narrator is at her husband's mercy
Nevertheless, the narrator picks herself up off the ground; she's determined to find a "conclusion" to the "pointless pattern" on the wall
Physically, she is told to rest, mentally she is told to rest, and so there is nothing left for the narrator to do but use her eyes and written word. To see the world in a different light through the lens of her isolation. And so she does. She sees things no one else sees because of her solitary confinement. She sees her entire gender become plastered on the wall--behind the wall. Women and wives alike are paper stuck on and behind a societal wall, unwavering, unmoving
Dutiful to the owner of the room, she's merely a design. But behind the facade lies a group of people yearning to come out, to be exposed, looking for an escape from the unsolved pattern that defines their monotonous day-to-day activities of being female. The narrator rips apart that paper--with it's odd pattern--to find a conclusion. The narrator enjoys the mental stimulation of the wallpaper for it "dwells" her mind so.
Even writing has become such a hard task to take on because the narrator has been expected to sleep all day, thus, her ability to stay mentally focus has faded immensely. The method through which the narrator is supposed to be healing is actually digging her deeper into a hole of depression, of reliance.
Perhaps this was an insane asylum for it appears as though mental health patients once lived here based upon the given description
This setting, then, generalizes the gender assumptions about women in the late nineteenth century in two ways:
1. Women were belittled, treated like mental health patients in that they were limited in task and restrained from physical and mental activities (with the exception of performing domestic tasks)
2. They were equated with children, rendered useless in virtually every aspect of life
The wallpaper creates a mysterious, ominous atmosphere. As discussed in an earlier slide, the wallpaper symbolizes women and their limited gender role throughout the nineteenth century
The wallpaper, ironically, is helping her health condition because she has something to focus on, to think about. However, it also causes her to go insane because she realizes her condition and, as a result, wants out
Marriage, more specifically, is the institution that is strangling her and all the other women she see's behind the bars of the wallpaper.
She's beginning to go insane and this insanity is a mental condition that begins to manifest itself. Perhaps these are hallucinations, images that do not exist in reality but seem to appear in her vivid imagination
Created by: Gaelyn Rosenberg
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