Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “the Yellow Wallpaper”: the Use of Symbolism to Express the Psychological, Sexual, and Creative Oppression Experienced by Women in the Twentieth Century

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “the Yellow Wallpaper”: making use of Meaning to Express the Psychological, Sexual, and Creative Injustice Experienced by Females in the Twentieth Century

Amber Gonzalez 12/6/11 English 2213 Melissa Whitney Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”: Using Significance to Express The Mental, Sexual, and Creative Injustice Experienced by Ladies In The Twentieth Century Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the late 1800’s while being treating by the extremely relied on Weir Mitchell. Throughout this time women were typically admitted into the care of doctors by their partners without their provided permission. At this time there was really little research concerning Post- Partum Anxiety. According to the A. D.

A. M Medical Encyclopedia, Post-Partum is moderate to extreme depression ladies may experience after giving birth. The signs consist of fearfulness, uneasyness, and anxiety- all of which are displayed by Jane in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Gilman was advised by Dr. Mitchell to stop composing and rest, only partaking in “home” activities. She was not to go to with good friends or go outside much. Contesting to these rules, Gilman ended treatment with Mitchell and composed “The Yellow Wallpaper” with the hopes of shedding much required light on the ineffectiveness of his techniques.

The mental condition of numerous women frequently aggravated due the basic population’s lack of consideration including a lady’s outspoken viewpoint involving the improvement of her own health. Carol Kessler writes in “Consider Her Ways: The Cultural Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Pragmatopian Stories, 1908-1913,” “The utopian fiction of Charlotte Perkins Gilman takes on as its “cultural work” the demonstration that females are not restricted to one traditional mode of being– wife/motherhood– however can fill as varied social roles as can male equivalents” (126 ).

Kessler is mentioning Gilman’s writing is not only a declaration versus the mental health practices worrying women, however also consists of other problems that were controlled by a patriarchal society. Denise D. Knight suggests in her essay “I Am Snapping Enough to do Something Desperate,” that Jane’s habits at the end is “an expression of the tremendous rage she feels toward her hubby, John” (78 ). This statement is evidence recommending that ladies were well aware of the need for a change involving these matters. Gilman uses the yellow wallpaper to signify the sychological, sexual and imaginative injustice females experienced throughout Gilman’s contemporary times. Jane’s “condition” is exposed to the reader at the beginning of the story. Jane has actually just reached the “vacation” house and is composing privately considering that John forbids it. She composes of John, “You see, he does not believe I am ill!” (Gilman 173). This quote indicates to the audience that Jane’s voice is of no significance next to John’s. Jane continues to voice her opinion about her illness and what she believes might cure her.

John blatantly disregards any tips she might have worrying her own health, appearing ruthless and cold. This is very clear when Jane initially voices do not like for the space with the yellow wallpaper, in which she is designated to stay. Jane composes, “I don’t like our room one bit. I desired one downstairs that opened on the piazza … however John would decline it!” (Gilman 174). Gilman enables the audience a glance at the significance of the wallpaper at this point. Jane discusses her dislike of the space with the yellow wallpaper as soon as she is presented to it.

Upon bringing this discomfort to John’s attention she is been adequate with a pledge to change it. Nevertheless, John later breaks his guarantee with the thinking that they will only exist 3 months. The creeping feeling Jane experiences worrying the wallpaper signifies the mental instability she feels looming over her. John persuades Jane there is nothing incorrect with the space and refuses to move her although she requests he do so. When Jane continues she composes of his response to her, “However John says if I feel so, I will disregard proper self-control; so I take pains to manage myself” (Gilman 174).

Jane is required to hide her feelings and worsening condition, along with her writing. This interaction between the 2 characters shows the number of ladies during this time period were not to have viewpoints or preferences. This scene shows the lack of self-expression and flexibility ladies came across. Imagination in ladies was not extensively accepted in Gilman’s society and was often deemed improbable. In among Jane’s entries she describes, “There comes John, and I should put this away he hates to have me write a word” (Gilman 175).

This sentence is effective because the composed word is typically more effective than the spoken word. Women were rarely provided the high-end of speaking freely, much less composing easily. John’s unwillingness to allow Jane to write illustrates the narrow minded perfects males had worrying females. In “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman composes that Dr. Mitchell, ” concluded there was nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn guidance to “live as domestic a life as far as possible,” to “have however two hours’ intellectual life a day,” and “never to touch pen, brush or pencil again as long as I lived'”( 51 ).

Both Gilman and Jane were innovative women that used composing as treatment to express what others around them might not comprehend. Jane’s journal and her writing signify the imaginative skills and intelligence lots of females were capable of but were forced to conceal. Gilman opposes the idea of women being married to make great “moms” with the statement, “And yet I can not be with him” (Gilman 177). Jane is referring to her infant son. The possibility that a lady could want more from life aside from to wed and have children was an almost difficult notion at the time.

In “Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’: A Centenary” Linda Wagner- Martin composes, “Of these many conflicts intrinsic in females’s attempting to lead acceptable female lives, possibly the most bothersome is that of motherhood, its attendant duties, and its practically inescapable loss of self-identity” (52 ). The A. D. A. M Medical Encyclopedia recommends that a common cause of Post-Partum Depression in ladies is the reducing quantity of time they have to themselves after having a child. Females of brighter minds were frequently lost in this kind of society.

Numerous artists feel an undeniable responsibility to their work, frequently taking time away from their households. It was impossible for creative women to prosper when their prime function in life was to wed and have children. Knight writes, “Gilman demonstrates how stifling the cult of domesticity was for smart females” (78 ). Jennie, Jane’s caretaker, represents this concept. Jane writes of Jennie, “She is a perfect and passionate house cleaner, and expects no better profession” (Gilman 178). Jennie’s attributes and tendency to stay out of Jane’s company looks like a fear felt by lots of females.

While it prevailed for many smart women to become depressed due to creative and psychological oppression, fear often quieted any desires for modification. It was extensively comprehended that any female who attempted to live otherwise would simply as easily wind up in Jane’s dilemma. Martin writes of the matter, ” The point, obviously, is that society anticipates ladies to be fulfilled through motherhood, which ladies who question their functions as moms, who grumble or are angry about those roles, are suspect if not beyond human understanding” (63 ).

In “The Yellow Wallpaper” Jane’s habits typically shows this idea that women longed for the opportunity to select their life profession, instead of being designated it. Sexual oppression of women is likewise discussed in this piece. John frequently disappears for a work and even when he visits, there is very little physical contact in between him and Jane. Judith A. Allen composes in “Reconfiguring Vice: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Prostitution, and Frontier Sexual Contracts,” “Gilman shared in a typical, worldwide, late nineteenth-century feminist critique of marriage and of other sexual economic agreements” (173 ).

Gilman’s very opinionated declarations relating to women’s liberties clearly extended to their sexual needs along with emotional needs. While it was often anticipated for females to remain behind and tend to the kids while the males were away at work, it was often neglected how these physical absences affected them. It was socially appropriate for a male to appease his sexual cravings with other females while he was away, however not for his wife to do the exact same with other men. This was taxing on numerous ladies. When John is checking out Jane one night, he just scoops her up and takes her to bed, where he reads to her until she is tired and all set for bed.

Jane appears to be too ill to confront her libidos like lots of women of the time. Her relationship explained with John is appeared. Given that there is an absence of a physical relationship between the two, there seems no relationship at all. This clarifies the belief that females were wed off to produce kids and please their hubbies. As soon as Jane begins taking notice of the wallpaper itself, the tone of the story takes a dive. While the tone of the story starts somewhat light hearted and relatively safe, there is still a hint of foreshadowing.

It is when Jane becomes obsessed the audience ends up being conscious of how dreadful her condition truly is. It is nearly used as a mockery of John’s ignorance throughout the entire story. The storyteller writes, “There are things in that paper that no one knows about but me, or ever will” (Gilman180). This is when Jane is realizing the figure in the wallpaper in fact is a female and she seems behind bars. The importance here is that nobody can comprehend how Jane is feeling, including the other females around her. As time goes on John informs Jane things such as, “You are acquiring flesh and color,” and “I feel a lot easier about you” (Gilman181).

Rather than asking Jane how she feels, he is informing her. The paradox is Jane’s determination to accept being told how to act, feel, and live. Based upon the mockery offered by the narrator, John does not really comprehend what Jane needs, considering he, like everybody else included, does not view females as individuals capable of reasoning and complex sensations. This idea was prevalent to the society throughout that time period. The phrase “dear John” is mentioned throughout the story, showing the value of John to Jane. As Jane’s condition and obsession with the wallpaper worsen, her strength decreases also.

She is required increasingly count on others, including John. She writes of John, “Dear John! He likes me extremely dearly and dislikes to have me ill” (Gilman 180). The irony is how little of significance Jane appears to have in John’s life. He has actually a regular written for Jennie and Jane to follow throughout the day while he’s away. Among the nights he is going to, Jane composes, “He stated I was his darling and his comfort and all he had” (Gilman 180). These words have an empty meaning. If Jane were the only thing John had, he would have paid more attention to her and recognized she was not getting better in the least.

This supports the then popular belief that women would be content with just being informed what they wish to hear. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” there are declarations made versus the male doctors that were so highly appreciated amongst communities throughout Gilman’s time. Jane writes, “John is a doctor and perhaps that is one reason I do not recover faster” (Gilman 173). Jane is confessing that a lady’s task to submit to her hubby gets in the way of her requirement to be relentless concerning her health. This observation is paradoxical and strong. It argues the mockery in the circumstance.

John, as a physician, is held up to such high requirements, yet he has no idea what is truly happening with this female. The story is mocking society’s idea of “intelligence.” John makes the mistake of dealing with Jane as if something is incorrect with her. However, the humor is in the doctors’ failure to figure out that ladies are merely composed of the very same emotional abilities as men. It is likewise needed to pay special to attention the significance of name choice in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” John and Jane can mention “Jane Doe” and “John Doe. If this is the case, both could be identified since no particular importance to the audience. A Jane or John Doe are unidentified people. Gilman did not feel the need to provide these characters any particular names that would identify them with a specific characteristic or characteristic. Their circumstance is unknown, and their scenario was very typical for that time. John’s neglect for Jane’s claims of her sluggish descent into a getting worse psychological condition was a common practice for medical professionals relating to females. Typically when a woman required or desired something, she had no other choice but to acquire the assistance of her husband.

In the instance of Jane requiring alternative means of treatment, her only hope would have been John. Naturally John did not listen to her demonstrations. Gilman is stating that both males and females must have an equal say in marital relationship. Kessler composes, “The ‘collaboration’ society that Eisler specifies appears currently to have been present in the “pragmatopian” imagination of Charlotte Perkins Gilman as exposed in her turn-of-the-century fiction, specifically the short stories: the option or partner-oriented gender roles she depicts could be understood or attained then or in the contemporary society that we know” (126 ).

There were also lots of marriages lacking the understanding John plainly does not display. This coincides with the idea that lots of women who were wed to lots of males at that time experienced the oppression Jane feels and were consulted with the same lack of knowledge John display screens. At the end of the story Jane writes, “For outside you need to creep on the ground, and whatever is green instead of yellow” (Gilman 188). This has a childish feel to it. Previously in the story, when Jane is trying to speak with John about how she is feeling he responds with, “What is it, little woman?” (Gilman 181).

The last scene of the story explains Jane as this insane lady, however it has her sneaking around the ground like a child. In “Environment as Psychopathological Meaning in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,'” Loralee MacPikew composes, “The truth that the storyteller’s prison-room is a nursery suggests her status in society. The woman is legally a kid; socially, economically, and philosophically she must be led by an adult– her husband” (286 ). One day when Jane is stuck in her space alone, she goes back to her childhood while staring at the wallpaper, providing a description of a vibrant memory.

She composes, “I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing prior to, and all of us understand just how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a kid and get more home entertainment and fear out of blank walls and plain furnishings than most children might discover in a toy-store” (Gilman 177). These habits revert to the idea that even as children, females were facing psychological neglect. It likewise supports the idea Jane was often dealt with like kids by their other halves, presenting the concern how might she be expected to be a “great” mom if she herself was not permitted to act like a grownup.

Gilman’s choice to make the wallpaper yellow rather than any other color is fascinating. Yellow is often viewed as a neutral color worrying gender. This may be connected to Gilman’s protest of the belief that ladies are inferior to males concerning imaginative, emotional, and intelligent ability. As soon as Jane begins to acknowledge the wallpaper, her descriptions of it end up being more detailed. She explains it, “took a look at in one method, each breadth stands alone; the puffed up curves and flourishes- a sort of “debased Romanesque” with delirium tremens- go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity” (Gilman 179).

The words “delirium tremens” (Gilman 179) indicate how the wallpaper accepts Jane’s intensifying condition. Colors have typically been known to control an individual’s state of mind. Following this belief, yellow is known to promote interaction. This is a paradoxical sign, considering John did not listen to Jane in the least. There are often times he overlooks her feelings or declarations. At the start of the story Jane claims to feel something strange about your house. When she brings this to John’s attention he states what she “felt was a draught, and shut the window” (Gilman 174).

Clearly John’s failure to listen to Jane discourages her to speak of anything to him. In “Consider Her Ways,” Kessler writes, “By refusing to accept meanings of standard “male” and “female” functions, and rather of providing clear alternatives to such mainstream concepts, Gilman forces readers to question borders specifying behavior presumed acceptable on the basis of gender” (126 ). This declaration supports the notion that Gilman thought that both males and females ought to share all household duties, including working and raising children.

The satirical importance at the end of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is astounding. It does an excellent task of surprising and stunning the audience. It leaves this image imprinted of a crazy lady taking a bite out of a bed and creeping around her other half. Once Jane believes she is the woman inside the wallpaper, she writes, “and I do not want to have anybody in, till John comes. I wish to amaze him” (Gilman 187). At this moment her anger appears. The narrator is clearly pointing fingers at who is to blame for her current predicament. She is comparable to a child throwing a tantrum.

It’s nearly as if Jane is presuming the habits of a function she has actually been offered, which is no various than what she does from the beginning of the story. She does what she is informed. However, John frequently refers to her as everything but a woman. Naturally this mentality was bound to capture on. Jane also had no other ways of escape from her world. John refused to permit her to go anywhere. It was almost as if she were a kid being grounded. When kids are forced to remain inside they use their creativities as home entertainment. To do this is human nature, and Jane is no exception.

There is also attention to be paid to the bars described in the wallpaper. Jane writes, “during the night in any type of light, in golden, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it ends up being bars!” (Gilman 182). The bars signify all the injustice felt by Jane. As the development of Jane’s condition worsens, the look of the bars ends up being more popular. As soon as Jane finds the bars, she notices the woman in the wallpaper, “The outside pattern, I suggest, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be” (Gilman 182). This quote describes the unawareness John and other males of the time showed worrying women.

Gilman is making a statement versus how apparent it is that Jane understands what she needs more so than her other half. This circumstance prevailed amongst many females during that time duration. It is also an outcry versus a lady’s inability to practice self-expression. When Jane decides to try and assist the lady escape from the wallpaper (and becomes the woman herself), she peels all the paper so she can not be put back. Once John enters the room she says to him, “‘I’ve got out at last,’ said I,” in spite of you and Jane! And I’ve pulled of most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! ‘” (Gilman 189).

This statement could be analyzed as Gilman’s imaginative self being defiant versus the rules set up by a patriarchal society. While this last scene can be understood as haunting and troubling, it practically seems as if Jane is getting the last laugh in the end. Her hubby who is “successfully” a doctor has failed his own spouse. Jane’s roadway to madness was induced by her hubby’s “trusted” methods. Shortly after the story was published, Dam Mitchell was required to re-evaluate his techniques utilized on “mentally unsteady” ladies. There were many patriarchal barriers dealing with women when “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written.

Gilman does a remarkable task of showing the scaries that arised from this complex and fragile subject. The image of a woman behind bars in yellow wallpaper could not be more appropriate to convey such an essential message. This narrative shows the feeling of entrapment and misplacement lots of innovative and intelligent women felt throughout Gilman’s time. The yellow wallpaper is a strong symbol of a declaration, imagination, and self-expression in a society where such concepts were much too often kept from the female population.

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