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In the nineteenth century, women in literature were often portrayed as submissive to men. Literature of the period often characterized women as oppressed by society, as well as by the male influences in their lives. The Yellow Wallpaper presents the tragic story of a woman's descent into depression and madness. Gilman once wrote "Women's subordination will only end when women lead the struggl... Full-text essay

In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the unnamed protagonist is suffering from postpartum depression, which is caused by the rapid changes in levels of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and thyroid due to the birth of a child. This depression can be brought on by stress and isolation right after birth. In this short story the protagonist was brushed of by her husband John, ... Full-text essay

Often times what is meant to help can hinder. Positive intentions do not always bring about desirable effects. The "Yellow Wallpaper" is an example of such an occurrence. In this short story the narrator is detained in a lonesome, drab room in an attempt to free herself of a nervous disorder. During the era in which this narrative was written such practices were considered beneficial. Th... Full-text essay

"The role of the narrator influences the type of relationship we have not only with him or her but also with the story" (Landy 75). This quote was taken from our Literary Studies book in which we have read several stories concerning different styles of narration. Narration is one of the most important components of a story. The characters, plot, setting, and theme are also significant, h... Full-text essay

Signs of society’s sexism in The Yellow Wall-Paper The Yellow Wallpaper is a story, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Although the work is short, it is one of the most interesting works in existence. Gilman uses literary techniques very well. The symbolism of The Yellow Wall-Paper, can be seen and employed after some thought and make sense immediately. The views and ideals of society are often found in... Full-text essay

If there is one story that we have read so far that has had a tremendous impact on me, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is definitely it. I read the story in high school, however I really didn’t remember too much about it. I saw the story as one woman’s journey into madness however; I also saw it as more than madness. It made me very upset when not only her husband but also her brother, both physicians, shr... Full-text essay

The short story, “ The Yellow Wallpaper”, written by Charlotte Gilman, and “The Cast of Amontillado” written by Edgar Allan Poe, are stories in which the plots are very different, but share similar qualities with the elements in the story. “The Cast of Amontillado” is a powerful tale of revenge, in which the narrator of the tale pledges revenge upon Fortunato for an insult. “The Yellow Wallpaper” ... Full-text essay

For the women in the twentieth century today, who have more freedom than before and have not experienced the depressive life that Gilman lived from1860 to 1935, it is difficult to understand Gilman's situation and understand the significance of "The Yellow Wallpaper". Gilman's original purpose of writing the story was to have gained personal satisfaction if Dr. S. Weir Mitchell might cha... Full-text essay

In "The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the dominant/submissive relationship between an oppressive husband and his submissive wife pushes her from depression into insanity. Flawed human nature seems to play a great role in her breakdown. Her husband, a noted physician, is unwilling to admit that there might really be something wrong with his wife. This same attitude is se... Full-text essay

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a creative woman whose talents are suppressed by her dominant husband. His efforts to oppress her in order to keep her within society's norms of what a wife is supposed to act like, only lead to her mental destruction. He is more concerned with societal norms than the mental health of his wife. In trying to become independent and overcome her own suppressed thoughts... Full-text essay

For the women in the twentieth century today, who have more freedom than before and have not experienced the depressive life that Gilman lived from 1860 to 1935, it is difficult to understand Gilman’s situation and understand the significance of “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Gilman’s original purpose of writing the story was to gain personal satisfaction if Dr. S. Weir Mitchell might change his treatmen... Full-text essay

Throughout history people have always seemed to follow what notions that were considered “cool”. Though I doubt that “cool” was the word used to describe these notions they were still there in some form or another. One of the greatest farces ever committed in the name of these popular perceptions was medicine. At that time, medicine that was on the cutting edge seem to have always involved some so... Full-text essay

A major theme in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is that solitary confinement and exclusion from the public results in insanity. The use of imagery and setting helps illustrate this theme throughout the story. The unnamed protagonist in this story suffers from a nervous disorder which is enhanced by her feeling of being trapped within a room. The setting of the vast colonial man... Full-text essay

In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the dominant/ submissive relationship between an oppressive husband and his submissive wife pushes her from depression into insanity. It is about the growing madness of a young married woman arising out of the pressures of her life. A woman who is being treated for a case of post-partum depression is slowly driven mad by the treatment itself ... Full-text essay

For John Modern day feminists’ enjoy looking into the past to find examples of female oppression. This tactic is employed in the hopes of demonstrating that oppression of their sex by the evil male populous has been going on for decades. One such work that is cited by feminists to showcase just how terrible women were treated in the first part of the twentieth century is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s... Full-text essay

"The role of the narrator influences the type of relationship we have not only with him or her but also with the story" (Landy 75). This quote was taken from our Literary Studies book in which we have read several stories concerning different styles of narration. Narration is one of the most important components of a story. The characters, plot, setting, and theme are also significant, h... Full-text essay

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Descent Into Madness



Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the story of a woman's

descent into madness as the result of being isolated as a form of "treatment"

when suffering from post-partum depression. On a larger scale, Gilman is also

telling the story of how women were kept prisoners by the confines of the

society of her time and the penalties these women incurred when they attempted

to break free from these confines.

In the beginning of the story, the narrator, whose name is never divulged,

has been brought to an isolated country estate in order to recuperate from "a

slight hysterical tendency" by her husband, John, who is also a physician.

From the outset it becomes apparent that she is an unreliable narrator due to

her state of mind. The paragraphs of the story are short and choppy,

indicating an inability to concentrate and a mind that is racing from one

thing to another. The narrator talks about her imaginings that the house is

haunted," . . . There is something strange about the house-I can feel it"; she

also relates how everything she does exhausts her. These symptoms, as well as

the numerous referrals by the narrator to the baby, indicate post-partum

depression. When speaking of the baby the narrator says, for example, "I

cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous."

In order to treat this "temporary nervous depression," John isolates her from

society and orders her to do nothing but rest. He even becomes upset when she

wishes to write, causing this story to be "composed" of writings she manages

to do in secret. John places her in the attic of the mansion, like a dirty

secret, in what she believes to be a former nursery. There is, however,

strong evidence that the narrator is not the first mental patient to occupy

the room. There are bars on the windows, gouges in the floor and walls, and

rings fastened to the walls; the bed is bolted down and has been gnawed on,

and the wallpaper has been torn off in patches.

Confined to this room day after day, the narrator begins to study the

wallpaper: ". . . I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that

pointless pattern to some sort of conclusion." "That pointless pattern"

refers to the rigid pattern of complete subjugation to men that women of

Gilman's day were expected to follow. A woman of that era was the "property"

of her father until she married. She then became the chattel of her husband

with no legal rights and no authority to determine what was best for her.

The narrator begins to see things in the pattern of the wallpaper: "There is

a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous

eyes stare at you upside down." This is indicative of the fate of those

foolhardy women who strayed from the path society had dictated to them. A

woman who attempted to break loose from that pattern was subject to social

ostracism. If not already married, she destroyed any hope she may have had of

marriage, family and living within the norms of society. If already married,

she risked physical punishment, the loss of her family, or was even considered

mad. In either case, it is unlikely she could ever hope to be considered

respectable again.

[TEACHER'S NOTE: YOU NEED A TRANSITION HERE] On moonlit nights, the narrator

sees bars appear on the wallpaper which are, in actuality, simply shadows from

the bars in the window. She also begins to see the form of a woman behind

those bars. The woman is trying to "escape" by shaking the bars and,

initially, this frightens the narrator. She fears the kind of woman who dare

to attempt escape from the bars of society and the reprecussions that would

follow for that woman. Most of all, she is terrified of the rebellious

thoughts in her own mind that could, if not contained, cause her to become

that woman, inevitably suffering the same dreadful repercussions and

destroying her life.

As time goes on, the narrator's mind slips deeper into mental illness. She

becomes increasingly paranoid about John and Jennie, the housekeeper. "The

fact is, I am getting a little afraid of John. He seems very queer sometimes

and even Jennie has an inexplicable look." She also begins to smell the

yellow wallpaper wherever she goes, and soon she believes she actually sees

the woman from the wallpaper creeping in the garden during the day.

The narrator begins to see the woman in the wallpaper more clearly: "And she

is all the time trying to climb through the patter-it strangles so; I think

that is why it has so many heads. They get through and then the pattern

strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!"

This is another symbolic reference to the fate of women fo tried to escape the

path society has prescribed for them.

As the narrator slips even deeper into madness, she becomes determined to

help the woman from the wallpaper escape. She waits until she is alone, then

strips the wallpaper from the wall. In order to reach higher, she attempts to

move the bed; when she is unable to do so, she gnaws the bed.

The narrator locks the doors and throws the key out the window. When John

finally manages to get in the room, he finds his wife, completely mad now,

"creeping" around the edge of the wall. When asked what she is doing, the

narrator replies, "I've gout out at last . . . in spite of you and Jane. And

I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!" Although Gilman

does not tell us who Jane is, it is plausible that the narrator's name is Jane

and, in her madness, she believes she has become the woman from the wallpaper

and finally escaped. [TEACHER'S NOTE: BRIEFLY FOLLOW UP ON THIS - SHE, AS A

FREE WOMAN, IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN THE SUBSERVIENT, PASSIVE WIFE WHO

BEGAN THIS NARRATIVE]

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a fascinating look into the mind of a woman

slipping deeper and deeper into mental illness. It is also, however, clearly

a statement by Gilman of the absurd confines society places on the women of

her time and the extreme consequences that befell the women who attempted to

break free of those confines.



[TEACHER'S COMMENTS: THIS IS A WELL-WRITTEN AND STURDILY SUPPORTED

EXPLICATION. GOOD WORK! GRADE: A]

 

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