The Yellow Wallpaper Essay

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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1157

  • Pages: 5

The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and John Clive’s film “The Yellow Wallpaper” are similar and different in many aspects. The main plot for example, is extremely similar in both versions. John, one of the main characters, is a doctor and tries to help his wife, the narrator, from depression he believes she suffers from. His treatment requires virtually no activity, and that she does nothing at all for several weeks. In order to make this possible, John purchases a large estate, which is isolated and quiet. He is constantly in and out of the house due to his job, so he creates a strict schedule for his wife to abide by. His possessive control over his wife’s actions is apparent in both the short story and film. It is his control that causes his wife to sneak around, for example beginning her secretive journal, which she believes relieves her mind. Clearly, these two people are not meant to be together due to their opposing views. By the end of the story, John had driven Charlotte so mad that he caught her tearing the wallpaper off the wall in her room. The little aspects are what differed between the short story and film. Things like how the house maid acted, different symbolisms, and the intentions of different characters are obvious examples. However, the similarities in John’s character between the short story and film of “The Yellow Wallpaper” are the most important portion in analyzing these two pieces. How he treats his wife, the narrator, and how he is portrayed are the main similarities in his character.

Throughout both the film and short story “The Yellow Wallpaper, John is portrayed as the villain, or antagonist. He is viewed in this way because his treatment of the narrator, or his wife, goes terribly wrong. His actions prove that he had good intentions for his wife the entire time, but his controlling personality is ultimately what drove her insane. He did love her and want her to get better, but he did not believe she knew what was best for her. We know he loved her because after John had set all these
arrangements up, he told Charlotte, “I only want what’s best for you”. Also, the fact that he had a strict schedule for his wife to abide by and his complete disregard to her attempts to escape the life she was forced into proves John cared in a way. She tried to express her feelings to John, but he only patronized her further, unknowingly making her depression worse. In both pieces, John is the narrators’ husband and is by societal law responsible to protect her. His ignorance and stubbornness causes him to do the complete opposite, because he thinks he is the one who knows what is best for her. He does not let her have a say in the matter, which is typical for men to do during this time period. Back then, woman did not really have much say in the household, in politics, or in society what so ever. However, the part when he crossed the line is when he began to treat her as if she was a patient, not his wife. This is obvious when John explains to her, “You must abide by my schedule”. His neglect towards her feelings is what made her get sicker, and you can only push people so far before they break. That is why by the end of both pieces John finds his wife to be completely insane, crawling in their room with all of the wallpaper ripped off of the wall.

John treats his wife exactly the same in both of these pieces as well. He is quoted saying, “I love you” on multiple occasions. Back during the time that these settings took place, it was common for men to think they were the more dominant gender, and for them to not want women to have a say in anything. So John clearly is not like most men of his time. Women were also considered housewives, and all of their responsibilities were in the house. So it is not a surprise that John believed he knew what was best for his wife. He did not let her have a say even in her own health, which is why eventually she ended up going crazy. This is evident when John discovered his wife’s diary. He sits her down and says, “This is not what women do”. Reading and writing he believes only stresses her brain, and that is what is causing her sickness. Even though she pleads that writing helps her relieve stress and makes her feel better, his arrogance just makes matters worse. It is also evident when John denies his wife’s request to visit with her family members. He says it is because her treatment requires her not to see anybody. He then goes on to host his own family at his house. Charlotte
completely freaks out at the dinner because of all the stress. By this point in the story, the readers get a clear idea that Charlotte will not be normal again.

Keeping both pieces in mind, “The Yellow Wallpaper” has to be one of the most impressive pieces I have ever read and watched. Even though it was written in the late 1800’s, it is surprisingly modern in its content. It is clear that mental illness played a major role in the mindset of the narrator. The extended metaphor of the wallpaper as the restricting force that puts down women in society was clear. I also really liked how both authors portrayed John as a rich, successful, and powerful man. I think he fit the description of how that type of man acts today, with a sense of nobility. Thinking that you know everything and can never do wrong is not a good way to live. John’s inability to complete any of his wife’s requests can be seen as a metaphor to a society that is unjust to women. Despite John’s good intentions, in the end his wife continued to suffer. I would recommend this piece to women who feel they are being put down by men, and not treated equally. Its meanings are deep and hard to understand, however they are powerful and significant. Every aspect of this story can be compared to modern day life. I personally see multiple similarities between the story and society today. Women are constantly not being treated fairly. Both authors did an excellent job in describing characters and hiding messages throughout the story. I know this because it was an exhausting job totally understanding these pieces.

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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay

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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1098

  • Pages: 4

The Yellow Wallpaper

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story that was written by American author Charlotte Perkins Gilman and was published in 1892. The story is narrated through the journal entries of a woman who is confined to her bedroom in order to cure her “slight hysterical tendency.” Although this treatment was well intended by her physician husband, due to her isolation and lack of mental stimulation the woman’s mental state steadily deteriorates until the end of the story when she goes completely insane. In order to better understand this story it is helpful to analyze it through the lenses of the seven schools of literary criticism which include, formalist, biographical, historical, reader-response, deconstructionist, psychological, and gender criticisms.

From a formalist perspective, one of the most important things to note about this short story is how it is composed from the entries in the narrator’s secret journal, which she keeps hidden from her husband. The result of this diary-like construction makes the story seem almost autobiographical even though the narrator is a fictional character. Because of this, everything is relayed in a very personal way and gives an in depth view of the narrator and her feelings. The reader gets very little information about other characters and there is an intense focus on the narrator and the inner workings of her mind as her mental state steadily declines.

While formalists argue that there is one true meaning that can be derived from the formal qualities of the text, deconstructionists argue that as time passes, the meanings of words change and thus the meaning of the text also changes. One word whose meaning has changed since the writing of this piece is “nervous.” The author seems to use this word as meaning an affliction or illness. Back in the nineteenth century, the word nervous seems most frequently attributed to women as if it is an unavoidable characteristic of the female nature. Today these same connotations do not exist and therefore a deconstructionist would argue that the meaning of this text has changed.

In contrast with the deconstructionist style of criticism, which focuses on the text, biographical criticism focuses on the author of the piece and their experiences and motivations in order to understand a work of literature. The motivations behind the “The Yellow Wallpaper” become strikingly clear when the author’s background is revealed. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote this piece in 1892, shortly after her own similar bout of mental illness. In her explanation of why she wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper,” she explains that after being prescribed the rest cure, she “came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that [she] could see over.” She also explains that much of her reason for writing this short story was to try to save people from the fate she narrowly escaped and the same fate that the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” ultimately fell victim to.

Similar to the biographical method of criticism, gender criticism also focuses on the author’s background, specifically the aspects relating to his or her gender. The fact that Charlotte Perkins Gilman lived in the 19th century has a lot of impact on her writing. She lived in a time when society was primarily male dominated and women had few rights. Her experience with mental illness was also strongly affected by her gender. Similar to the narrator’s experiences, a male doctor prescribed Gilman the rest treatment, which ended up doing more harm than good. This was a time when women were stereotyped as fragile, weak, nervous, silly, and were generally not taken seriously. Doctors did not understand postpartum depression during this time period and believed that it was a “temporary nervous depression” or “a slight hysterical tendency” which they thought were simply characteristics of the female nature.

The historical method of criticism focuses on the historical context of the story. As the previous paragraph discusses, this short story was written in the 19th century when postpartum depression was not understood and women had few rights. This is the historical backdrop of Gilman’s life and writing of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Gilman wrote this story at a time when the “rest cure” was a real medical treatment that was being applied to countless women, most of whom suffered from it. When this piece was first published many of Gilman’s contemporaries were shocked. One physician wrote that “such a story ought not to be written, it was enough to drive anyone mad to read it.”

Similar to biographical and gender criticism, the psychological school of criticism focuses on the author, but also looks at the readers and the characters of the story. This method of criticism looks into psychology to unearth the meaning in the story. “The Yellow Wallpaper” would be full of interest for psychological critics. Both the narrator and the writer suffered from severe postpartum depression, which in the case of the narrator, progressed into full-blown madness.

The last of the schools of criticism is the reader-response criticism, which studies the readers because without the reader, a text has no meaning. Many modern readers, for example, probably feel sympathy for this narrator because they have a better understanding of the disease that she was suffering from. Readers who were alive when “The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published would have probably had a much different reaction to this story. From Gilman’s piece on why she wrote the story, it is clear that her story did was not well received by many people due to its shocking and disturbing nature.

I think that by far the most important school of literary criticism for interpreting “The Yellow Wallpaper” would be the biographical method of criticism. So much of the short story was influenced by Gilman’s own experiences with the rest cure and mental illness that it is almost essential to know about her background in order to understand this piece. Historical criticism and gender criticism are also very important but I think the biographical method encapsulates all of them because when trying to understand the author one must inevitably factor in the influences of their gender and the time in which they lived and wrote.

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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1678

  • Pages: 7

The Yellow Wallpaper

Throughout the study of literature, it is believed that most works cannot be fully understood without a biographical strategy. In order to understand a work, the reader must understand the author’s life and experiences to grasp the full concept of that work. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman uses symbolism, personification, and other literary tools to portray the way women were treated throughout this particular era. Gilman also uses a romanticism approach when writing “The Yellow Wallpaper”.

The narrator believes that the woman trapped in the wallpaper, symbolizes her and all the other women living in the male dominant society. Romanticism represents an art for arts sake. Born in 1860, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was forced into an era of male supremacy. Gilman was abandoned by her father from infancy and often left into the care of relatives including Harriet Beecher Stowe and feminist activists, Isabella Beecher Hooker and Catherine Beecher. Strong and influential women, struggling for their place in a male dominant world, shaped Gilman’s childhood.

The women made Gilman an independent young lady, teaching her importance of exercise and philosophy, over that of clothes and jewelry. At the age of 24, Gilman married her first husband, Charles Walter Stetson. After having her daughter the next year, Gilman went into a deep depression. The noted neurologist, S. Weir Mitchell, examined her. He told her to follow his ‘rest cure’ of complete bed rest and limited intellectual activity. This meant no writing. Gilman realized that this ridiculous cure was actually driving her more insane, so she removed herself from Mitchell’s care.

When her health got better during a trip to California she paired her emotional problems to her marriage and decided to leave her husband. In 1900, Gilman married for the second time to her cousin George Houghton Gilman. Gilman continued her feministic journey until discovering she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She left a final note that read, “When one is assured of unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one. ” Charlotte Perkins Gilman took her life on August 17, 1935, in Pasadena, California, at the age of 75.

Gilman’s main intent in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is to portray the way women were viewed and treated during this time period. In the later 19th century, men were the superior race. Women oftentimes went from being born into a house with a father; to being married off to someone they weren’t exactly happy to be with, leaving no time for a woman to experience life without someone “in-charge” of them. Gilman did not want to be like other woman of this time, she redefined womanhood, proclaiming that men and women were to be equal.

This ‘new woman’ was to be an intelligent, well-informed, and well-educated free thinker, the creator and expresser of her own ideas. She was to be economically self-sufficient, socially independent, and politically active. She would share the opportunities, duties, and responsibilities of the workplace with men, and together they would share the solitude of the hearth. Finally, the new woman was to be as informed, assertive, confident, and influential as she was compassionate, nurturing, loving, sensitive–a woman of the world as well as of the home.

Gilman’s vision of an autonomous female challenged not only the traditional “cult of true womanhood” but the concepts and values of family, home, religion, community, capitalism, and democracy. ” (De Simone) “The Yellow Wallpaper,” starts off with the main character, Jane, talking of a “colonial mansion,” that seems to be a place to vacation. Gilman gives detail of this set-back home that almost gives the reader an eerie feeling, which foreshadows events to come.

When Jane starts to describe her husband, she gives the sense that he mocks her and he often laughs at her. This symbolization gives insight to her own life where she often felt mocked and taken for granted by men. As the story goes in deeper, Jane tells that she is going to the house because of the rest care she was prescribed, very similar to that of Gilman’s. When they get to the house, Jane enables the reader to see the room with the yellow wallpaper. The windows were barred and there were restraints on the bed and she tells of scratches on the walls and ceilings.

Jane believes that this room could have been a nursery or a babysitting room, but this does not make sense because when Jane reaches out to scratch the walls, she can barely even touch. How could a young child have ever reached if Jane, a grown woman, could not? As time goes on, Jane gradually learns to enjoy the room she is staying in, except for the dreaded yellow wallpaper. After being in the room for so long and dwelling on the wallpaper, Jane discovers someone trapped behind it. Jane believes she is getting better in health, but secretly is becoming obsessed with the woman, or so she believes, behind the wallpaper.

Throughout the story, Gilman uses the romanticism approach. Romanticism expresses sensibility and passion. A romantic writer incorporates symbols, myths and images in their writing to help tell the story. Jane recognizes herself as the women trapped in the wallpaper. She believes that it symbolizes her feeling trapped in the house and under the control of her husband. She uses the Gilman tells of the room with barred windows and restraints as if it were a normalcy. Reading more into the story, the reader can gather that Gilman was symbolizing this room as a woman in a man’s world.

The windows are barred, showing that there is no escape from that way, as there is no escaping a man in the universe. The restraints symbolize that a man can hold a woman back, along with keeping her close so that she doesn’t wander off. The idea of the woman creeping behind the paper mirrors Jane creeping to write, while being told that it is not recommended for her treatment. Although the ideas may be far out, the story that Gilman tells reflects her own life in many ways. When Gilman introduces the woman behind the wallpaper, it’s almost as if she is introducing herself into the story.

Jane possesses many qualities and characteristics that Gilman portrayed in her own life and when Jane sees the woman in the wallpaper, it’s just like Gilman’s conflict with her own mind. It symbolizes a woman’s want to break away from society and be her own person in this world that has a complete control over her. Whether it’s a father, husband, or even brother, this time period focused on male’s first. The woman was told what to do and how to act and there was no room left for questions or disobedience. “Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be.

You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was. John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wall-paper. ” (Gilman 165) This quote displays Jane’s new obsession with the wallpaper and the thought that she is truly getting better. The fact that she mentions John’s happiness with her health leads the reader to think that he is a caring man, but after understanding Gilman’s own life, makes the reader see him as the domineering husband that he is. ’I’ve got out at last,’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane.

And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! ’ Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time! ” This last quote is one of the most meaningful parts of the entire short story. While saying this, Jane makes herself become the woman in the wallpaper. Not only is it just a thought anymore, but when she lashes at her husband by saying “you and Jane,” Jane loses her sense of identity and takes on the role of the woman behind the wallpaper.

She tells him that he cannot put her back, symbolizing that Jane does no longer want to be restrained to the room, nor him. Even after he faints, he is still in Jane’s way, leaving her to creep around him still. “Even while considering herself a writer, and implying that she could have been a notable artist, throughout her life, Gilman qualified her artistic achievements by insisting that what she had done was ‘perfect of its kind, but not ‘art’”; that she was devoted to ‘literature and lecturing,’ but that her writing was ‘not, in the artistic sense, ‘literature. ” (Heilmann) Gilman was an impeccable example of what happens when a woman’s potential is seen over. She led a successful life and her work has helped the female race raise awareness of their capability in life. Although Gilman lived a long time ago, her work then has given females today a better understanding of where they have been, but also where they are going.

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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay

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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1713

  • Pages: 7

The Yellow Wallpaper

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ written by Charlotte Gilman can be affectively analyzed from two schools of thought structuralism and feminist theory. Though structuralists’ deny the work of literature any connection to its author (it must be what it is, no underlying meaning) feminist theory must first and foremost be understood in its historical framework. By the turn of the century, journals, art galleries, and works of fiction were swamped with notions about how to be a proper woman in middle class society.

With industrialization, urbanization, declining birth rates, amplified divorce rates, the shift away from the home and the rise in the number of single men and women in the professional class, Americans dreaded that their families would disintegrate. Thus, one of the most important changes to American culture in the late 19th century was the change in the perception and illustration of gender roles. Besides the changes in social order, Americans experienced intense economic modifications. Large corporations replaced small family businesses and people were reliant on their employers. The gap between the rich and the poor radically increased.

These changes resulted in an understanding of the home as the last refuge for traditional values for both men and women. Despite the new feminist activism inspired in part by women’s roles in the Abolitionist movement, as well as the Temperance and Suffrage movements, women were supposed to exemplify the conventional values represented by the home. In this way, women were associated with the home; both were emblems of the ethics Americans hoped to maintain. The home turned out to be a female gendered domestic space in which women, as the custodians of customs and ethics, both attained and lost power.

Glorified as morally better members of society who would protect the family from the harms of business and modernity, women were expected to be chaste, benevolent, self-sacrificing, cultivated, cheerful, compassionate, well-read in the appropriate fields and economical. Most significantly, by relegating women to the conjugal sphere, many women were barred from the new economy and therefore were more and more reliant on their husbands for income. Without the establishment of the separate female gendered domestic sphere, the process of developing a male centered corporate culture would not have been probable.

During the 19th century, domesticity was romanticized in literature, mostly in literature by women. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, politicized the home by making it central to social action. By the turn of the century, women like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, produced novels that flouted conventional women’s roles in the home. In each text, the female character fantasizes about escape and freedom. Women are depicted as functioning “as a display of her husband’s wealth” as suggested in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Women and Economics regarding the wife’s function which is “to dress and entertain, and order things.

Society and religious conviction, as forms of patriarchy, blind women to the limitations of their gendered individualities and encourage the “angel in the house” image of perfection as their happiest function; that of the “mother-woman”. The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman describes the conventional gender roles of the late 1800’s, through the viewpoint of male supremacy in marriage, with female existence coordinated to a more compliant, or passive position. This story also presents the social relationship between male dominance through accepted “norms” and female “imprisonment”, within the household.

The role of women in society is demonstrated distinctly in the depiction of John’s sister in The Yellow Wallpaper. The woman writes, “There comes John’s sister…I must not let her find me writing. She is a perfectionist and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which makes me sick! ” (Gilman). John’s sister is the exemplary woman; one who is pleased with her life, and wishes for no more. John’s wife, however, is revolting on her place in society by writing.

This is why she includes the statement “I verily believe …… makes me sick! ” (Gilman). The chief source of the narrator’s mental state is her dictatorial husband who suppresses her emotional and creative inclinations and compels her to focus on the objects that surround her. This apathy shoves her deeper into insanity. John confines her in a room that has no getaway with bars on the windows and fixed bed, which is “nailed down. ” Her developing insanity is a form of rebellion and a way to gain her own independence from marriage as well.

Her fight to set the woman in the wallpaper free denotes her battle for freedom. This paragraph is extremely important to the story, portraying not only how the woman feels about herself, but also what her husband’s therapy is doing to her. Her description of the paper being “dull enough to confuse the eye” and “constantly irritating and provoking study” is alluding to her sense of inferiority and burden. The “lame uncertain curves” she speaks of are likely to reference the ridiculous suggestions that he husband makes for her, and “suicide” being the fate that is destined to result if followed.

The “unheard of contradictions” express the faultiness of John’s methods. She describes him at one point: “He says no one but myself can help me out of it that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me” (165). The exclusivity of The Yellow Wallpaper caused early reviewers to greet it with resentment. People were not ready to wake up to the reality about feminine passion and autonomy. Charlotte Perkins Gilman saw no joyful end to the women’s urge for autonomy.

The narrator’s attainment of freedom brings them depression rather than achievement and bliss. The Yellow Wallpaper began a painful process of “bridging two centuries, two worlds, two visions of gender” (Ford, 116). The turn-of-the-century indeed brings alteration in the roles of women, starting the slow but sure decay of old roles and hopes. Throughout such a period, women experience perplexity and inconsistency. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ rightly portrays the female protagonist as a true turn-of-the-century woman, facing crises related to issues of independence, self-hood and gender roles.

Within Structuralism the author and text is not found to be important, however, there is a strong significance of the reader. This is seen as true due to the fact that “the text disappears in favor of looking at patterns, systems, and structures” (Parker). Structuralism is frequently belittled for its inability to prove something through usual hypothesis testing and validation methods. The value of structuralism in the literary world is to check out every aspect of that work of literature a way out the concepts of that said literary work into a system of binaries (hot vs. cold etc.

In the case of The Yellow Wallpaper one binary structure that could be used is sanity vs. insanity. For instance the husband appears to be sane, which gives him more control over his wife, allowing him to lock her up in the room. ” If you take each particular motif from the story, their structures and flip them, more motifs would develop which would enable for the origin of the systems (structures) inside the text(s) to become analyzable” (Parker). The next thing structuralist can process would be to flip the binary over making a critic examine “insanity over sanity” within the story.

Keeping in mind that binary structure, looking at the narrator of the story, insanity seems to be the superior of the two motives; for she is constantly displaying moments of insanity. At first, she is angry for being forced into imprisonment while she tries to cure herself of the insanity. However, as time goes on the author begins to get happier and happier as she starts embracing her insanity. For example she writes, “Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be” (Gilman).

Looking at such enthusiasm from accepting her insanity a structuralist would conclude that Charlotte Gilman is stating that insanity could be a good thing as long as the person is experiencing happiness. The structuralist may scrutinize the structure of “A mans role within the female role” or “energy over weakness. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the systems (structures) and binaries inside the text indicate the foundation of the author’s own encounters while as being a patient throughout the Victorian times.

This understanding of Charlotte Gilman’s existence helps to evaluate much more structures without focusing mainly on text and its plot. Structuralism is used in literary theory in order to examine the bigger picture of a text. It does not just focus on the storyline or the author, but it examines the systems in which the story is formed. In reality, one can take any work of literature and apply a school of theory that would best suit their representation of the work, but what is trying to be brought here is two theories from different side of the spectrums.

With feminist theory one cannot overlook the history of the whole cultural movement behind it; as one would say ‘all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it’ on the other hand, structuralism sets out to find a more ‘scientific’ approach to the analysis of literature. Though both sides could argue, when should each theory be applied and how appropriate it would deem itself. But, each theory does serve itself a purpose, whether it is one of a cultural revolution or one of a scholarly look at a text without ‘author’s intentions’.

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  • University/College:
    University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 277

  • Pages: 1

The Yellow Wallpaper

The Marxist approach relies on the relationship between dominant and repressed classes. It also gives way to understanding how objective reality is conveyed in this story on a social level. In Charlotte P Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the writer delves into emotional and sociological issues combined. Applying the Marxist approach to this story gives readers insight on mental illness. This approach shows the effects, particular influence, and how it relates to dominant and repressed class interaction.

Throughout the story this type interaction is a common theme. One example is of John: A physician of high standing is the writer’s own husband. In this story, the writer is forbidden to work by her “physician” husband. He then takes all care from her and assigns it to himself and others. It then leaves the writer feeling powerless. The writer has to submit her will and responsibilities to others. She is then put in a room with garish wallpaper. There she’s confined and is unable to work or write.

The issue of mental illness is intertwined within this repressive control. The wallpaper then becomes something the writer is able to control. No one touches the paper but her. The writer’s very existence begins to imitate the reality of the wallpaper and now behaves as if she’s come out of it. The physician husband faints at the end as the writer now controls the wallpaper. The physician is powerless to stop or understand what is happening. This represents the objective reality in the story.

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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 348

  • Pages: 1

The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a first person narrative of what appears to be a woman in the grip of madness. Written in the 19th century, it has been considered a gothic horror story, assuming that the narrator is not having hallucinations, but is actually seeing evil spirits. The more likely analysis is that the woman is suffering a nervous breakdown brought on by postpartum depression. The Yellow Wallpaper can be seen as a condemnation of the accepted psychotherapeutic treatment of the late 19th century, when what appears to be benign neglect was prescribed.

The narrator’s husband, described as a physician, says that she is suffering from a ‘temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency,’ (2). It is known that she is isolated from the rest of the household and confined to a room decorated in yellow wallpaper. This wallpaper quickly becomes an obsession. There is the possibility that the narrator is insane and none of what she tells the reader is true. Possibly she never had a baby and her insanity is more pronounced than is first assumed.

There is no way to know for certain, but the author has let it be known that the work is vaguely autobiographical and she was not insane, but rather depressed. Her hallucinations are a further symptom of postpartum depression, though the reader is not told whether or not a physiological cause for her behavior has been ruled out. Her condition worsens. Her dissociative behavior and cognitive dysfunction, as she walks the room in an endless loop, failing to recognize her husband on the floor, seems evident.

Her delusion of being trapped in the yellow wallpaper is noteworthy (15). It is difficult to evaluate a work of fiction when the author is deliberately vague, but the available evidence points to what may be a hormonal imbalance, leading to postpartum depression, hallucinations, cognitive dysfunction, delusions and madness.

Bibliography

Gilman, C. , 1989, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings, New York: Bantum Books

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