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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay, Research Paper
Insanity and Feminism in the Works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
?The Yellow Wallpaper? by Charlotte Perkins Gilman reflects the
intense struggle with of a woman during the late 1800?s. However, as the
story unfolds, we realize the reasons for this insanity and the connections of
this breakdown to the main character?s husband, John. What we discover is
the way women were treated during the late 1800?s and the significance of
this treatment on their lives. The story clearly expresses the pain,
opposition, and depression experienced by women at that time and provides a
backdrop for the initial stages of the feminist movement.
As the story begins, the author decribes in detail her painful
relationship with her husband. She writes ?John laughs at me of course, but
one excepts that in marriage?. She also explains ?So I take phosphates or
phosphites-whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise,
and am absolutely forbidden to ?work? until I am well again.? It is clear that
the main character is very unhappy in her marriage which causes her pain,
and that she is unable to do the things she would like to do. When she states
?You see he does not believe I am sick!? it is evident that she feels very
repressed and that no matter what she says that she needs her husband, he
does not have the capacity to understand or to respond to those needs. He
is emotionally unavailable. Her frustration grows and contributes to her
insanity and pain as the story progresses.
The house in this story represents the main character and the
opposition she faces related to her husband. ?It is quite alone, standing well
back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of
English places they you read about, for there are the hedges and gates that
lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.? The
way she describes how the house stands back from the road and the hedges,
walls, and gates that lock are symbolic of how she sees herself. She feels
very alone. The main character states ?I am afraid, but I don?t care-there is
something strange about the house-I can feel it.? This explains how she feels
about herself, that something is wrong, she can feel it. These feelings are
directly connected to oppositional nature of her husband.
The rest of the story conveys in great detail the symbolism of the
yellow wallpaper, it?s contribution to her depression. The wallpaper seems to
represent the main character?s husband. ?The wallpaper, as I said before, is
torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother-they must have had
perseverance as well as hatred.? She continues ?This wallpaper has a sub-
pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only
see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.? This mirrors the way she feels
about her relationship with her husband, how he controls her every move, and
the way he smothers her. In direct contrast is the pattern in the wallpaper
which represents the main character and her marriage. ?The faint figure
behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.? The
main character continues ?Sometimes I think there are a great many women
behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around very fast, and her
crawling shakes all over.? The description of the patterns in the yellow
wallpaper represent a constant struggle in an unhappy marriage and the main
character?s desire to leave the relationship, but reflect her inability to do so.
Consequently, she becomes extremely depressed.
In conclusion, ?The Yellow Wallpaper? is a very symbolic story,
representative of life in the late 1800?s, and the struggle for women to be
heard. This story is written about the life and experiences of one individual,
her pain, opposition, and depression, but can be expanded to represent the
struggle for freedom for all women during that era.
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