Hypothesis: Gillman utilizes the yellow wallpaper to expose oppression versus ladies living in patriarchal society in the 19th Century.
After studying and analyzing Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s narrative ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, I am able to make the hypothesis that Gillman uses the yellow wallpaper to expose injustice versus females living in patriarchal society in the 19th Century. The short story is composed based on Gillman’s own life when she went through “worried prostration” after the birth of her child. Gillman allows her readers to comprehend the perspective of a female in the 19th century and how her role in society led to madness.
Feminist literacy critics Ed. Janet Witalec “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1) and Rena Korb, “An overview of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper'” (2) both support my hypothesis. They evaluate the behaviour and environment of the narrator in relation to this time period. This woman who is experiencing nervous depression tells “The Yellow Wallpaper”.
She is wed to a medical professional, who manages her life. Through patronising and bombarding her with concepts that she need to feel, her partner demands that she must not compose. He claims her imaginative activities will only make her more “worried” and “crazy”, although the storyteller found great delight in composing. She keeps a secret journal of which she explains the yellow wallpaper and the environment that she resides in. Her journal gives the readers an insight to her point of view on life as an oppressed lady in the 19th Century. Witalec and Korb utilize a feminist lens to express their viewpoints on the short story, which support my hypothesis.
Ed. Janet Witalec talks about the patriarchal pressures on females in the 19th Century, which caused challenges for the entire female gender. Witalec states that in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ “critics acknowledge the story as a feminist text composed in protest of the irresponsible treatment of ladies by a patriarchal society” (1) Witalec supports the hypothesis that the yellow wallpaper exposed oppression versus females who resided in the 19th Century society. She acknowledges that males were the most dominant in society and for that reason created limits and rules for females, even those who were of the higher class. Witalec describes that the confinement of the storyteller in the room looks like the narrator’s position in society during the 19th Century in referral to gender inequality.
She states, “The narrator’s confinement to her house and her feelings of being dominated and victimized by those around her, particularly her spouse, is an indication of the numerous domestic limitations that society places upon females.” (1) This supports my hypothesis from a various point of view. Witalec describes that not just the wallpaper looks like the oppression against women however also her other half controls her both physically and psychologically, instructing her with how she needs to feel. Her spouse located her in the room upstairs surrounded by the “revolting”, “smouldering” yellow wallpaper, when the storyteller grumbles about the paper her spouse (John) says “this place is doing you excellent”. The storyteller was majorly affected by the patriarchal pressures of the 19th Century, which resulted in her having no liberty. She was constantly told what to do, how to feel and what was finest for her without her making any choices for herself.
I concur with the statement Witalec makes, as it is evidential in the primary text when the narrator discusses “John says if I don’t pick up quicker he shall send me to Dam Mitchell in the fall.” “he said I wasn’t able to go”, “I am a physician dear, I understand”, “you will never for one immediate let that concept enter your mind!”. We observe that the storyteller is limited and trapped amongst her partner’s demands; she is powerless in contrast to him. Witalec states “her (the storyteller’s) mental state is worsened by her spouse’s medical viewpoint that she restrict herself to your house.”( 1) I concur with Witalec’s statement, as although John is a qualified doctor and for that reason thinks he is right, it strongly appears that his medical viewpoint is threatening his other half’s peace of mind. Their marital relationship is a representation of 19th Century inequality and reveals the readers their “common” relationship was plagued by control of body and mind through a dominant male mindset.
Witalec likewise describes, “The yellow wallpaper itself becomes a sign of this oppression to a lady who feels trapped in her roles as spouse and mom” (1) Witalec is referring to the distress that the wallpaper has caused the storyteller’s mind. The storyteller says “This paper wants to me as if it understood what a vicious impact it had!” by explaining the wallpaper, we can relate her thoughts to the society she lives in as individuals in the 19th Century know that the inequality present is vicious and unjust yet daily it still impacted ladies’s lives on an unfavorable basis. I concur with what Witalec is specifying, it is obvious that the narrator is unhappy with her position in society and feels dominated and caught. I think that the yellow wallpaper is undoubtedly utilized to expose the oppression against women in the 19th Century society, along with the contribution from the marital relationship that the narrator is associated with. It is clear that there was a vast difference in between the worth of male and female viewpoints and decisions.
The storyteller is locked up in the patriarchal society and uses the yellow wallpaper to express her feelings towards the society she is caught in. Women nowadays are more effective in society due to ways in which they have altered their roles. Such as not being deemed somebody’s other half and mother. Whose functions are to cook, clean and nurture their family. Today ladies in the 21st century are informed therefore they themselves have become confident in their own choices without the male voice. I am grateful to reside in this century, as it would have been awful to feel powerless and vindicated just because of my gender.
Rena Korb thinks that ‘The Yellow Wallpaper” ‘touches on lots of problems pertinent to women of the 19th century, most especially that of the roles they are enabled to play.” (2) I partially agree with Korb’s declaration as the story does talk about the roles that females were ‘allowed’ to play in the 19th Century. I also think that a major purpose of the story was to reveal females who are dominated by the male gender, that there is successful methods of taking control of life as an individual (i.e.- self expression). This is symbolically displayed in the story when the narrator tears the wallpaper down- becoming complimentary. Korb discusses that the narrator develops a relationship with the yellow wallpaper, this is due to the fact that “the narrator has no physical or spiritual escape from her hubby, she needs to seek relief somewhere else: in the yellow wallpaper” (2 ).
This details the lack of love in their marriage; nowadays ladies prefer the friendship of another individual- male or female. When the storyteller very first views the wallpaper she instantly abhors of it- “I never ever saw an even worse paper in my life”. As her time in the room advances she becomes fonder of the wallpaper and takes prolonged amount of time to analyse the patterns “I never saw a lot expression in an inanimate thing prior to,”. Korb talks about “her (the narrator’s) initial pain decreases as she sees mirrored in the wallpaper her own existence” (2) I concur with Korb’s declaration as when the storyteller thoroughly analyzes the shapes and designs within the wallpaper she discovers there are two aggressive patterns. The front pattern is hidden with bars resembling a jail time sense, and in the back pattern there is a female figure trying to leave, this appears from the primary text- “The faint figure behind appeared to shake the pattern, simply as if she wished to go out”.
This quote allows the readers to determine that the female figure in the wallpaper shows the storyteller and her position in the 19th Century society, as the oppression versus ladies caused women of the generation to be trapped among males’ beliefs and requirements. The storyteller aims to escape from the ‘norm’ and “shake” devoid of the patriarchal structures of the 19th Century society. This concept is extremely comparable to the woman in the wallpaper who shakes the bars she is put behind bars behind, in effort to leave. This idea completely supports my hypothesis, and reveals straight that the yellow wallpaper exposes the oppression against females in the 19th Century.
Korb describes that although the storyteller despises her lack of flexibility, she still purposefully remains oblivious when her partner makes every choice for her. Korb states, “This routine of the storyteller of intentionally misreading her environments is apparent throughout the story. For example when John declines to succumb to her fancies about changing the wallpaper” (2) I agree with the declaration that Korb makes since in the primary text when the narrator faces John about her dislike towards the wallpaper. John states “I (the narrator) was letting it get the better of me” and “He stated that after the wallpaper was altered it would be the heavy bedstead next, and after that the barred windows, and after that the gate at the head of the stairs and so on.”
These quotes highlight the power that John has against his wife, and permit the reader to comprehend that in the 19th Century the male’s opinion always overthrew the ladies’s opinion. This can associate with my hypothesis as the narrator was dealt with against the wallpaper daily and if she got her way when then the remainder of the furnishings arrangements would follow, just like if females were not oppressed any longer, other scenarios would alter too. The wallpaper is a symbol of the injustice against females in the 19th Century. Korb presents extremely considerable concerns in relation to John’s action to the wallpaper change; she says, “Is he reminding her of her confinement? Does she recognize this subtle way of managing her? Rather than challenging such a possibility she instead, outwardly, counts on John’s guidance.” (2) These questions that Korb presents are enormously appropriate to the quote specified previously as John references to the environment that the storyteller is designated in; “heavy bedstead”, “disallowed windows”, “gate at the top of the stairs”, John emphasises the confinement that her surroundings present.
He blatantly names all pieces in her space that trap her from the wider world, as though it provides him a sense of enjoyment and complete satisfaction. The storyteller might not authorize of the control and supremacy that is set upon her however is entrusted to no choice, as it was the ‘norm’ in the 19th Century living in a patriarchal society, therefore to John she acts unaware of the managing circumstance that she remains in. This concept might be viewed as a weak and afraid quality of the storyteller, although she strengths as the story progresses and rips the wallpaper off the wall in order to do not hesitate and ward off John needs. She goes against John’s supremacy and uses the wallpaper to reveal her feelings and what she desires. Ladies nowadays have a voice of their own, and their opinions and judgements are not overruled by the male gender. In basic nowadays if a women talked to their husband about changing the wallpaper due to them disliking it, it would be negotiated on a fair basis, the females’s opinion would be considered. Being a New Zealand person I am happy too know that we were the very first country worldwide to give females a voice, which gradually supplied hope and modification for females across the World.
After analysing these two critics viewpoints associating with the oppression against females living in a patriarchal society it is clear that both critics support my hypothesis going over somewhat various perspectives. The yellow wallpaper describes how the storyteller was caught and controlled cruelly by the male gender. Interestingly recommendations to patterns within the wallpaper dispute with the narrators frame of mind. Nevertheless we discover her relationship with the wallpaper turns into something deeper which appears to reflect her feeling of confinement. By utilizing a feminist lens to communicate my hypothesis one can just think of the overall disappointment at never ever being spoken with on matters of significance to her such as the simplest of things- changing the wallpaper. The storyteller’s inner chaos through being oppressed is finally launched by detaching the yellow wallpaper she has left. I am thankful to be a part of the 21st century where females are accepted for who they are and not oppressed by the male gender.
( 1 )
“The Yellow Wallpaper.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 62. Detroit: Wind, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 May 2014.
( 2 )
Korb, Rena. “A summary of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” Gale Online Encyclopedia. Detroit: Gale, 2011. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Feb. 2011.