The Yellow Wallpaper: An Important Analysis

The Yellow Wallpaper

Alyssa Butler Allen Anderl English 124 November 16, 2012 An Important Analysis of Official Aspects in the Short Story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, published in 1899, is a semi-autobiographical narrative illustrating a young woman’s struggle with anxiety that is virtually without treatment and her subsequent descent into madness. Although the story is fixated the lead character’s obsessive description of the yellow wallpaper and her neurosis, the story serves a greater purpose as a testimony to the feminist struggle and their efforts to break out of their domestic jail.

With referral to the works of Janice Haney-Peritz’s, “Monumental Feminism and Literature’s Ancestral Home: Another Appearance at “The Yellow Wallpaper, and Anita Duneer’s, “On the Verge of a Development: Forecasts of Escape from the Attic and the Thwarted Tower in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Susan Glaspell’s “The Edge”, I will explore the styles of female imprisonment and inequality in association to gender relations utilizing the story’s setting, signs and characters. The story is framed as a journal entry composed by the primary protagonist.

She begins by blogging about the estate that her and her hubby are remaining at for the summer season so that she can recuperate from “… a slight hysterical tendency …” (Gilman). Her partner, John, a physician, has actually prescribed a “rest cure” treatment, confining her to bed, forbidden to work or compose. Limited to a previous nursery space with yellow wallpaper, she explains it as “… committing every creative sin.” (Gilman). She dislikes the wallpaper but John declines to change rooms. As the story progresses, the protagonist grows progressively depressed and distressed.

With John’s constant observation of her, making her unable to compose, her only stimulation appears in the extreme analysis of the yellow wallpaper. She starts to see a female “… stooping down and creeping.” (Gilman), behind the primary pattern. The wallpaper starts to control the protagonist’s creativity with visions of this imaginary female “… attempting to climb up through.” (Gilman), the pattern. Persuaded that this woman is caught within, the storyteller deals with to peel the wallpaper off in order to release her. By the end, the storyteller, totally outrageous, has moved herself as one of the ladies sneaking inside the wallpaper.

John, seeing her creeping around the room endlessly and smudging the wallpaper, faints in the doorway and the narrator has “… to sneak over him every time!” (Gilman). The setting in this story mirrors the narrator’s inner emotions which in turn helps to establish the theme of female jail time. In the beginning the narrator admire the building, glamorizing it and soon after it is portrayed to the reader that she believes, and almost hopes, that your home is “haunted” which there is “… something queer about it.” (Gilman). Janice Haney-Peritz mentions that “According to the storyteller, a haunted home would be the “… 8 of romantic felicity …” a location more appealing that which “fate” usually appoints to “simple regular people like John and [herself] (115 ). The house stands retreat from the road, “… quite 3 miles from the town.” (GIlman) and is completely isolated and restricted from society, just as the storyteller is. Her emotional position is reflected in the physical set-up of the house. Within your home, the narrator is confined to a “… nursery at the top of your home.” (Gilman). Gilman describes it saying that “It is a huge, airy space, the entire floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunlight galore.

It was nursery first and after that playroom and gymnasium, I need to judge; for the windows are disallowed for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.” The nursery itself is a continuous and overbearing pointer of the storyteller’s duty as a mother and a wife to take care of her kid and keep the house in order. Another connection in relation to style of isolation and restriction can be drawn in between the storyteller and her setting. The huge, airy windows are disallowed shut avoiding the narrator from leaving. She can see out of the room but is unable to take part in any of the outside occasions.

However, the most important element of this space is the yellow wallpaper. The storyteller despises it, hating the colour and it’s pattern. She writes that it is “… dull sufficient to puzzle the eye in following, pronounced enough to continuously aggravate and provoke research study, and when you follow the lame unpredictable curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide– plunge off at outrageous angles, ruin themselves in unprecedented contradictions.” (Gilman). This description of the wallpaper serves the purpose to show the reader the unjustified limitations of society that the narrator goes through; “. analysts have seen in this description of the wallpaper a general representation of “the overbearing structures of society in which [the narrator] discovers herself” (Madwoman 90), …” (Haney-Peritz 116). The statement of “dull enough to puzzle the eye” and “continuously annoying and provoking research study” are alluding to the storyteller’s sense of inability and burden while the “lame and unsure curves” are referencing the unreasonable suggestions that her spouse is offering. Finally the “suicide” is the regrettable fate that is destined to happen if his counsel is followed.

When describing the wallpaper the narrator composes that “The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.” (Gilman). This wallpaper, meek and domestic, begins to signify the domesticated life that traps a lot of ladies. The main characters, the narrator and her other half, John, and their relationship supply a direct check out the theme of inequality in association to gender relations. John is a practicing doctor who recommends that in order for his partner to improve, a “rest treatment” need to be prescribed; he “. prohibits her the stimulation of household contact and the innovative outlet of her writing.” (Duneer 38). From the beginning, the reader can see the total supremacy and control that John has over his spouse. The narrator trusts and obeys him entirely despite the fact that she feels that social stimulation and composing would do her excellent. Duneer points out that “John’s mindset towards his other half is more paternal than spousal: …” (38 ). He patronizingly calls her “… a blessed little goose …” (Gilman) and vetoes her tiniest requests without question such as her plea to switch ooms so as not to indulge her “fancies”. The narrator reinforces this patriarchal relationship because she is apparently “Helpless to honestly defy her partners orders, …” (Duneer 39). This relationship speaks volumes of the time period and antiquated gender functions where women were required to send to their husband’s will without the choice to voice their own ideas or viewpoints, doomed to spend their life in the domestic sphere. John, however, can not be considered the villain of this story. His actions and his “rest cure” prescription were not planning to hurt the storyteller however to help.

The issue though lies in his ignorance and the all-inclusive power he keeps in the relationship as the husband and physician. He is so sure that what he understands is finest for his partner that he overlooks her own viewpoint, requiring her to conceal her real feelings. He really does look after his partner but their unequal relationship prevents him from completely comprehending the problem at hand. The most essential sign of this story is obviously the yellow wallpaper. It starts to represent the evolution of the storyteller’s health problem throughout the course of the story.

As the story advances, the storyteller begins to relate to a figure of a female “caught” behind the pattern of the wallpaper and it moves from being symbolic to the fictional; “From this point on, the narrator sees things otherwise; now the wallpaper’s “outside pattern” is perceived to be bars, while it’s sub-pattern is perceived to be a female rather than something “like a woman” (p 26)” (Haney-Peritz 119). This woman cooped behind the “bars” of the wallpaper is basically in the exact same position as the narrator– not able to leave the expectations of a domesticated woman’s role in society.

As the storyteller comes down into madness, her main focus becomes apparent. “… she must free the shadow-woman from the paper-pattern that disallows her complete self-realization and through recognition, bind that lady to herself.” (120 ). The narrator has moved her identity to the lady’s in the wallpaper and has fixed to free “herself” from the bars of social expectation and “… the male building of her identity.” (Duneer 42). As she rips the wallpaper off the wall, symbolically liberating herself, and creeping” around the perimeter of the space, John enters, and she exclaims” “I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I have actually pulled off the majority of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”” (Gilman). John faints and the storyteller continues to “sneak” around the room stating that she “… needed to sneak over him each time!” (Gilman). This final occasion is suggested to show the event of self and the emancipation of the storyteller from her partner’s dominance. She is finally in control and “… she releases herself through her imagination.” (Duneer 42).

Although the storyteller has actually lost her grip on truth and has “… securely installed herself in the world of the imaginary, …” (Haney-Peritz 120), this story is still an empowering story of feminism. Permitting her feelings to be expressed and acting entirely uninhibited, the storyteller feels as though she has freed herself from the prison of domesticity. Regrettably, her journey of recognition through liberation is not total since as she sneaked over her spouse each time, she refused to leave the limits of the space although he had fainted and, most likely, was not able to keep her locked up physically.

She was so thoroughly subjugated to the expected role of client and captive female that she was not able to grasp the hand of flexibility even when it beckoned at the entrance. This begs the concern regarding whether this female fight for freedom is an enduring battle. All of the formal aspects of this story, such as symbols, characters and setting, work together to illustrate to the reader the restrictions put on the narrator in such a male-dominated society as well as the narrator’s requirement for freedom. Works Cited Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper”. Electronic Text Center. University of Virginia Library. 1997. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. Haney-Peritz, Janice. “Monumental Feminism And Literature’s Ancestral Home: Another Appearance At ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” Women’s Research studies 12. 2 (1986 ): 113. Literary Recommendation Center. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. Duneer, Anita. “On the Edge of a Breakthrough: Projections of Escape from the Attic and the Thwarted Tower in Charoltte Perkins Gilman’s “the Yellow Wallpaper” and Susan Glaspell’s “the Edge”.” The Journal of American Drama and Theatre 18. 1 (2006 ): 34-53.

International Index to Carrying Out Arts Full Text. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. Annotated Bibliography Haney-Peritz, Janice. “Monumental Feminism And Literature’s Ancestral House: Another Look At ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” Women’s Research studies 12. 2 (1986 ): 113. Literary Reference Center. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. Janice Haney-Peritz’s essay is a review of the “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the field of feminist literature. Her essence of this critique is “… explaining a few of the more troubling implications of a literary critisicm in which Gilman’s story functions as a feminist monument,.” (114 ). The discussion in the text is the idea that the “… specific oppressive structure at issue is discourse.” (116 ). Haney-Peritz states that the structure at problem is a guy’s prescriptive discourse about a lady or John’s overbearing discourse to the storyteller. She utilizes the term “imaginary feminism” claiming that just as the narrator is freed from patriarchal supremacy since of her identification with her double, genuine ladies could also be released through “identification” with what might be called a womanly literary important canon.

However, she also raises the possibility that one might read “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a “story of John’s demands and desires rather than something distinctly female.” This is a direct contradiction then to her concept of womanly freedom through identification. In the end Haney-Peritz suggests that “… we aim to Gilman instead of to the storyteller of “The Yellow Wallpaper” for the inspiration we look for.” (124) and I completely concur with this thought. Gilman has actually made the storyteller in the story “mad” which provokes feelings of pity and compassion instead of feelings of empowerment and recognition for the feminist battle.

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