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Critical Response To The Yellow Wall-Paper Essay, Research Paper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman s The Yellow Wall-paper is set in the late 1800s in a colonial mansion (1657). The mansion sits back from the road, surrounded by hedges and walls and gates that lock (1658). It is also bordered by separate houses made for gardeners and other servants, a garden brimming with grapes, and greenhouses, which have been long forgotten (1658). It seems to be a beautiful old place, a perfect place to get away from the world and relax. Gilman may have chosen this particular setting because it was familiar to her. Gilman herself suffered with bouts of depression and was persuaded to see Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, whom she mentions in her story, for treatment. He was known for prescribing a rest cure , which is what brought Gilman to write The Yellow Wall-paper (1656).

Inside the mansion, the main character s husband, John decides that they will sleep in the nursery at the top of the house so she could get the most air (1659). The walls of the room are covered with wallpaper a horrible shade of yellow. Being confined to the room day and night for three months, the main character begins to become obsessed with the wallpaper. It is faded in spots from the sunlight and shredded in other spots presumably from the children that used to occupy the room. The color of the wallpaper is not the only thing she is obsessed with. The undefined pattern confuses and intrigues her. She spends many hours trying to make sense of it, finally deciding that the pattern consists of bars that imprison a woman. Still depressed and becoming increasingly deranged from her lack of physical activity and lack of human contact, she imagines that the woman creeps around behind the bars, shaking them and trying to get out (1665-1666). Gilman s description of the details of the setting is non-conformist. While most authors would choose to describe in detail the entire room, including the furniture, Gilman concentrates on the wallpaper, giving only a few details of the furniture and the rest of the room. Her non-conformist approach to describing the setting works well with the story that she is trying to tell. A person that is slowly going crazy would not conform to societies standards.

The atmosphere that Gilman creates for The Yellow Wall-paper is at the same time sunny and depressing. While she tells us that the nursery has many windows and is often filled with sunlight, we are depressed because we know that she is slowly going mad. Each entry in the story becomes darker, going from air and sunshine galore (1659) to a week of fog and rain (1666). This is representative of her downward spiral into madness.

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wall-paper. The Norton Anthology of

American Literature, Shorter Fifth Edition. Ed. Nina Baym. New York:

W.W. Norton and Company, 1999. 1657-1669.


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