Women And Wallpaper: The Role Of Women In "The Yellow Wallpaper" By Charlotte Perkin Gilman

1746 words - 7 pages

"The Yellow Wallpaper" written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a riveting story of a dejected woman locked away due to the instability of her mind. Our unnamed protagonist is a passionate writer and it is only through her writing that we are able to follow her on a journey where she becomes a victim to those around her including herself. Her writing also reveals the gradual development of her madness. The significance of the story is tremendous as it uses insanity to delve into the underlying issues of "a woman's place" and feminism, or the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of sexual equality, in the 19th century.The story begins with the woman telling of her depression and both her husband and brother, who happen to be medical practitioners, dismissing her claims. She voices this when she writes in her journal, "[y]ou see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do?" Her claims are dismissed by the most important men in her life, and she feels helpless. She is told, by these men, how her own body is feeling. We have to understand that in this time and era, she is living in a patriarchal society. The men, as seen, controls much of what is going on, and in our protagonist's position even tries to control the state of her health. She, as all women of that era, were discouraged from venturing out of their domain, so she feels as though she must accept it when they put no value to her opinion. She gives further evidence of this when she speaks of her husband. "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage." This sentence illustrates the dominant-submissive relationship not only between our narrator and her husband, John, but most married women of the time. The sentence plays up the male laughing and the female assenting. He viewed her ideas as amusing, much as a father laughs at his daughter's silly fancies. It's much easier to understand this relationship if you view the narrator as the daughter, while her husband acts as a domineering yet controlling father to her. " 'What is it, little girl?' he said. 'Don't go walking about like that - you'll get cold.'" He explicitly calls her a "little girl" because little girls need a guardian, not a husband. Little girls need adults, not partners.Gilman goes on to use "The Yellow Wallpaper" to suggest that solitary confinement and exclusion from society and normal activity can result in the instability of the mind, or insanity. This is, in fact, the reason for Gilman writing the story. She states in her essay, Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked." She wanted to show, through her own experiences, what isolation was capable of doing to a human being. Gilman uses setting to reinforce this theme throughout this story. Our nameless protagonist suffers from a nervous disorder that is only heightened by her feeling of entrapment and isolation in her room. The setting of the story, the...

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