I. Part 1
The Yellow Wallpaper is a brief narrative authored by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story was published in the year 1892. The writing is appraised for its demonstration of feminism and attributes of the women’s psychological and physical state of health during the 19th century (Subotsky 195). The author incorporated the duties women had during the 19th century and furthered on challenges such as the absence of another life apart from home and the energy of oppression from the community. This short story allowed other authors to follow the techniques incorporated and come up with their literature.
Charlotte Perkin’s story has led to the production of differently explained literature arguing about the themes and main attributes in The Yellow Wallpaper. This fascination among researchers gives it major significance among other works in the field of literature (Lin-na, 233). No specific analysis can be termed as the perfect description of the plot in the story since the issues raised in the book happened when they were almost changing discourses. This article has based in focus on three major concerns. These are arguments about the color yellow of the wallpaper, the application of wallpapers as a form of interior design in homes, and the effects of the reasoning skills employed by society on the health of women.
For so many years, the book was termed a Gothic story until it was republished as a text whose central theme is feminism. This tale has been among the most conflicting narratives published during the previous century. In this essay, the wallpaper shall be described as a character in the account. John is the other character employed in the narration and the narrator as the story was written in the first-person anecdote.
The narrator and the wallpaper have an interconnection that leads to total distortion of her sanity. Ironically, when the protagonist loses her mind, she finds freedom from her ‘imprisonment’. The events leading to her destroyed mental state shall be unfolded gradually
within this essay. The roles her husband and sister played in negatively affecting her mental stability while all these events took place shall also be comprehensively analyzed (Beer 199).
II. Part 2
The main themes in The Yellow Wallpaper including the oppression of women in the 1900 century in marriage and the significance of self-expression techniques. The narration also employs several literary devices to spice up the storyline and entice readers of the tale. Some of the literary devices used in the book include symbolism, metaphors, personification, and themes, as earlier mentioned (Adeniyi 3).
The aspect of symbolism is frequently used in the narration. The objects used as representations of deeper meanings include The Yellow Wallpaper itself, the moon, day and night time, and the homestead or estate. The central focus is on the Yellow Wallpaper in the entire narration. From the wallpaper, the story narrator discovers her individuality and her escape to freedom. The story begins with her persistence on the nature of the wallpaper, and this aspect consumes her and the narration altogether.
Another significant attribute of the nursery they dwelt in was the sturdy bed place. Different forms of literature speculate the themes attached to this setting in terms of sexuality (Rzadtki 2). The first discussed aspect is static sexuality, while the other is a sexual crucifix. The former statement proves to be true since sexuality was not practiced just as the bed was fixed to the floor, making it immobile. During the time, the Victorian ladies wholly belonged to their men in terms of all sexual aspects, and they were advised that sexual rights were part of the women’s duties leading to the bearing of a specific number of children. The nailed bed is, therefore, another symbolic aspect incorporated in the narrative.
Another very significant concept in the story narrative is the narrator and her mental state. Nervous meltdowns and their remedies in women during the 19th century are used to enlighten readers. Additionally, the color yellow and its interconnectivity to mental health issues are discussed. The narrator also portrayed mental instability, particularly derangement. This representation forms the thesis of this essay as the narrator displays mental illness while achieving a sense of freedom through her relationship with the wallpaper (Fang 8).
III. Part 3
In this context, the loss of the narrator’s sanity makes the narration both thrilling and dramatic. One of the medical treatments reviewed in the essay was Silas’s remedy for the neurasthenia condition. The author condemned the remedy as she had personally experienced its ineffectiveness. The therapy was unsuccessful because the narrator herself states that she was on the verge of completely losing her mind.
The narrative explains the post-partum depression the women faced after they delivered. The story vividly describes the plights of 19th-century women. The doctors during the time viewed the women as highly prone to infections leading to mental health issues. They deteriorated health caused by their weak natures and their monthly reproduction cycles. The ladies who appeared to be more focused in life were even termed to be the most susceptible to getting infected. The ladies who were seen to be aggressive in pursuing roles of the opposite gender and pursuing higher levels of education and political terms were mainly reported as it seemed they were exposing themselves to the dangerous mental health instability condition of experiencing nervous breakdowns. The fatigue of the nervous system was a disorder that took over America during the 1900s. Dr. Silas personally mentioned that women brought up from the city areas lacked full abilities to perform motherhood activities.
The main character remains unnamed in the entire narration because she explained the narrative from the first-person narration technique. The narrator’s husband named John, has a home rented for her to undergo the rest-cure in and even tells her he will send her to the doctor if she does not get well. The protagonist is displeased by her husband’s threats, but she does not argue due to the lack of other alternatives. This state makes her completely devastated, and she slowly becomes mad. Her mental health condition continues to deteriorate further because of the yellow wallpaper inside her room. The yellow wallpaper gives her the perception that another lady is attempting to pass through the pattern on the wallpaper.
The narrator gets these thoughts as she possesses a wild imagination and is a fan of thriller and horror tales. The protagonist believes the house she resides in is haunted, and as she remembers her traumatizing childhood, she becomes more frightened. When she was young, she used to have thoughts about the existence of monsters, and upon reminiscing, she even became more afraid. The narrator enjoys tales, but because of her husband and rules and regulations implemented during the rest-cure, she cannot explore her writing skills. The narrator also feels like the idea of interacting with other individuals would help assist her in recovering. Still, her husband is not for the idea, and he adamantly forbids her from going outside. He only keeps her in the house alone, doing nothing, and these factors worsen the narrator’s condition.
This makes the narrator helpless and depressed. When the pregnant woman had instructed the husband to change the existing wallpaper, her husband refused. This made her take the initiative of rearranging the wallpaper herself. These strange and frightening thoughts were attributed to her post-partum depression. This was a clear indication that the isolation was not making her better, but it worsened her condition.
In this context, men in The Yellow wallpaper are symbolic of the traditional negative features displayed to the women in the 1900s. The wallpaper acts as an oppressor to the lady. Similarly, the husband denies the narrator her rights of expression and free interaction, symbolizing the features of an oppressor. Additionally, as John is portrayed as the villain in the narrative, the wallpaper negatively affects the narrator’s thoughts leading to critical mental health issues.
The narration begins when John recommends that her wife receive treatment for her post-partum depression, which was not termed as an illness during the late 19th century. He then suggests that they have a holiday to fasten the process of recovery for her wife’s nervous disorder. When the two arrive at the house he had rented, his wife seems fascinated, but the wallpaper inside the room he had explicitly chosen appeared to bother her. This is indicated in the narration when the narrator says she is put off by the yellow wallpaper and requested her husband for another. She says that she had never laid her eyes on any uglier wallpaper, and the color was utterly off-putting, “I never saw a worse paper in my life, the color is repellent almost revolting (Gilman 80).”
At first, John is willing to repair the wallpaper that his wife had frequently complained about, but after analysis, he states that she was the one negatively affecting her thoughts. He told his wife that there was no worse effect than for a patient suffering from nervous breakdowns to let her imaginative fantasies get over the better part of her, “at first, he meant to repaper the room, but afterward, he said that I was letting it get the better of me and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies (Gilman 80).”
These claims made the protagonist more affected by the yellow wallpaper. Jane begins to obsess over the wallpaper’ She assigns human characteristics and displays hostility. She mentions that “the paper looked at me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had (Gilman 81).” She continues to describe further that, “there is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at your upside down, and she gets positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness (Gilman 81).” She claimed that it showed her a pattern that completely resembled a woman. The woman seemed to be approaching her from behind bars, shaking them during the night time, and during the day, she was creeping around her from outside the bars.
When the protagonist told the husband about leaving the house and profoundly refuses, her excitement with the wallpaper continues to grow. The narrator gets to a point where she starts viewing herself as one of the women enclosed within the wallpaper, and she decides to take action herself. She had got to the point of absolute devastation and was not in a position to take it anymore. She locks herself in the room and tears down the entire wallpaper. When John breaks down the door to enter, he is shocked by the sight, and he faints at the door.
Gilman’s story is primarily based on the interconnectivity of the narrator with the wallpaper. From the beginning of the narration to the end, where she achieves her freedom, there is a clear demonstration of the relations between the two. From the beginning of the narration, the writer is fascinated by the grand house that her husband had rented for their holiday. She then gets a weird sensation about the house and why it had remained unoccupied for such a long time.
These feelings make her start talking about her ailment of nervous breakdowns and the fact that her marriage was of paramount concern. She complains that the husband was not responsive to her needs. She then gives a positive description of the house, but the yellow wallpaper disturbs her. She finds it very queer and deformed with no specific shape. Her husband then interrupts her writing forcing her to stop expressing herself. When the first few days of their stay continue to pass, the narrator gets better at keeping the journal she was writing out of John’s sight. This conceding nature made John utterly unaware of what his wife’s true thoughts were.
As she continues to complain about the wallpaper to her husband, claiming that he should change it, the husband refuses, saying she should learn how to control her neurotic disorder. This makes the imagination of the narrator wholly distorted. She mentions to her husband that the thought of people walking around the house is fascinating to her, but her husband discourages the ideas. She reminisces about her childhood, where she used to frighten herself by imagining things in the dark such as monsters. She then describes her room in a manner suggesting that it was previously a children’s nursery.
When she gets deeper into the description, she is interrupted once more. This time Jennie, John’s sister, who was currently the nurse to the narrator, entered the room. Jennie was also not advocating for the narrator’s wild imagination. When the day of independence comes, her family visits and leaves her exhausted, she continues to obsess over the paper as she spent most of the time inside her room, saying, “I am getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper(Gilman 83).” Her husband then warned to send her to the real-life doctor, Dr. Mitchell. This angers her, but she remains silent about the whole issue due to the lack of an alternative.
The protagonist is always alone, and the wallpaper has become her main focus. She examines it comprehensively, trying to figure out the significance of the patterns on it. This has become her primary source of entertainment as she has no other activity to indulge in. This persistent focus on the paper gives her a deep obsession. Her determination to figure out the symbolism of the patterns gets her to the point of looking like another woman. As she starts developing a relationship with the design, she writes, “perhaps because of the wallpaper it dwells in my mind, so I lie here and follow that pattern about by the hour I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion. (Gilman 84)” Jane’s assessment makes the unclear shapes more distinguished saying, “behind the outside pattern, the dim shapes get clearer every day, it’s always the same shape, only very numerous (Gilman 84)”. Day in, day out, she sees a similar figure of a woman.
The woman from the patterns seemed to be crouched and creeping behind what appeared to be the bars of an enclosure, “and it’s like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern (Gilman 86).” The worsening of her thoughts daily made her very paranoid and insisting on her husband on the importance of stepping out for human interaction. Taking the issue very lightly, her husband refused, which led to a disgusting obsession with the paper. After several days, the narrator does not think of any other thing apart from the wallpaper. Since her husband and the sister are against her imaginative thoughts, she becomes very secretive while still assessing them. She continues examining it, ensuring none of the parties are aware of her activity.
A shocking incident that once took place involving Jennie as she earlier mentioned that she had come across yellow marks on their clothing. When her husband notices she has not recently been saying the wallpaper often as before, he becomes sure that her health is improving gradually. She directly mentions that “he seems queer at certain times and Jennie has an inexplicable look (Gilman 87),” while he says that she is feeling much better and more enthusiastic because of the wallpaper. Contrary to his thoughts, the imaginations became worse on the narrator’s end. She had insomnia and could even smell the paper.
She is shocked to notice some scratch marks of someone crawling around the wallpaper. The new pattern resembled a lady who seemed to be attempting to escape the main pattern. Her imagination makes the pattern seem like the lady inside the bars is trying to break them down by shaking them during the night, and she is seen to creep around during the daytime. She says, “I think that woman gets out in the daytime! And I’ll tell you why-privately-I’ve seen her! I can see her out of every one of my windows! It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight (Gilman 89).”
When she thinks that John and Jennie know her obsession, she plans to destroy the entire wallpaper. “When she ensures she is alone locking the door and throwing the key out of the window to keep everyone out and prevent the woman from getting away, (Gilman 90)” she starts biting off the paper and tearing it down to free the woman who seems to be trapped behind bars. She has a rope inside her room that she says she will use in case anyone tries to escape from it, “I’ve got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out and tries to get away, I can tie her! (Gilman 91).” She is frustrated to the point of mentioning, “I am getting angry enough to do something desperate, to jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try (Gilman 91).”
She has completely lost her mind when she is done doing this and begins having delusional thoughts of several women behind the wallpaper crawling around. She starts seeing herself as one of the trapped women because of the reflection of how she feels enclosed, making her continue destroying the wallpaper as she creeps around. This is when her husband enters the room forcefully and faints on the sight of the caused frenzy. As she had entirely lost her sanity, she continues to creep over her husband, who is lying on the floor. She finally finds her freedom and even mentions in the narration, “I’ve got out at last in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, and you can’t put me back(Gilman 83).”
From the beginning of the narrative, where Jane and her husband had spent their holiday, she describes the place as grand with fresh air. The author says it is a beautiful location with a delicious garden. The room she dwells in during their stay is on the third floor despite her wanting to reside inside one on the first floor.
She describes the room as previously being a children’s nursery. The walls have scratched at certain spots, and the paper is torn off similarly at specific parts. The furniture placed inside the room is heavy and permanently fixed on the floor. The room was huge and had windows on all the walls. There was plenty of air and sunlight penetrating the room during the daytime. She claimed that from being a children’s nursery, it was a playground, then a gymnasium. She stated this because of the levels the windows had been placed on and the surrounding rings on the enclosures. The narrator is, however, obsessed with the yellow wallpaper inside the room. Its attributes make her want to comprehend its patterns and vivid shapes inside it. The yellow is described to be repellant and dirty.
As earlier mentioned, John was the narrator’s husband. For most of the narration, the husband is seen as an evil character because of everything he made his wife go through. Even though John did not intend to make his wife get worse, his actions resulted in the worst possible state of her mental health. The main challenge with John was his authoritative nature that he employed while acting as the narrator’s spouse and physician. He does not consider any opinions that her wife has to better her state, but he believes that his views have the best results in improving her condition. This leads to the narrator concealing her genuine emotions to the matter.
Furthermore, the husband refers to his wife as a blessed little goose dismissing her requests, even the smallest. An instance of this happens when he refuses to exchange rooms for the wife when she asked so because he did not want her to explore her imaginative self. The fact that the two were completely different in imagination made it difficult for him to understand the wife’s wild imagination. He is not filled with bad intentions, but his refusal to help in the wife’s requests is seen to be harmful.
From the events elaborated in this exciting narrative, it is observed that the gradual happenings that led to the loss of sanity of the narrator were paradoxically the occurrences that set her free. The restrictions of her freedom, as explained, were her husband, Jennie, and the small door located at the stairs, which made it impossible for her to roam around freely. These can be termed as symbolic representations of the lack of freedom to self-expression (Golden 45).
The husband is seen as the principal reason why Jane is not free to perform many activities in the house they visited for their vacation. He does not allow her to engage in any writing as he thinks it worsens her situation mainly because of her nervous disorder. This makes her lack the freedom of self-expression as she enjoyed journaling her thoughts and assessments about the wallpaper. Her husband does not give her the permission to go outside and freely interact with people outside despite her mentioning it would have been of assistance in making her mental health state better. He does not even allow her to have the room of her choice because he did not fancy it himself. All these demonstrations show how women were treated with disrespect, and their views were not regarded when making any decisions in society. Additionally, these restrictions are the primary cause for the loss of Jane’s sanity. From this, she was driven to gain her freedom forcefully.
Jennie, who was in support of her brother, was also a restriction to Jane’s freedom. She was not supporting her behaviors of assessing the yellow wallpaper and writing down her thoughts about it. When she enters the room as Jane was journaling, she hides the book so that she does not come across it. Forbidding the narrator from freely expressing her feelings was the ultimate reason why all hell broke loose, driving her entirely mad.
In the book, men are displayed as the stronger gender with the power to give any orders to women. The women are portrayed as the weak and subordinate gender with no freedom of expression. This concept is present even in today’s western society. Studies indicate that men deal with reason while women and children are guided purely by emotions. If men use the logic of emotions, they will lack reason, making them the most dominant gender. The studies also indicate that women are mainly oppressed because they are full of emotions and their expressions. It is believed that any feelings should be secretive and not projected in real life, primarily when making decisions.
The demonstration of this domination concept is represented in The Yellow Wallpaper. The husband to the narrator is the one who recommends medication for her sadness and plans a vacation to their destination. When they get there, the woman chooses the room she wants to stay in, but her opinions are dismissed. When she expresses her dislike for the wallpaper in the room, her husband remains deaf to her complaints. She desires to move around and socialize freely but is commanded to rest and not leave the room by her husband. Since she does not have any option but to adhere to the rules and regulations, she follows them half-heartedly. Her writing hobby is forbidden and instead is given orders to rest rather than jotting down her imaginations. She becomes very frustrated by these collective restrictive and authoritative commands making her more depressed and gets to a worse mental health state.
The restrictions the narrator made her lack any mental stimulation that would have otherwise improved her psychological state. Patients facing mental health instability issues are given a wide range of recommended activities to help activate and increase their brain functioning (Clift 242). The actions that the narrator was suggesting would have worked for her benefit, but since the husband declined, she stayed all day indoors doing nothing but sleeping and resting. These daily repetitive activities made her interact with the wallpaper inside the room. From her perceptions, she became outraged, wanting to free the trapped people she saw inside the paper. She tore down the wallpaper and felt a sense of freedom immediately she was done with causing the damages.
Imagery is represented in the passage using several objects, as earlier stated. The central symbolism aspect was observed from the yellow wallpaper. The most significant meaning of the paper was a trap. Jane was trapped in terms of family, medication, and other aspects as observed in the context. This paper also serves as a depiction of the mental restrictions of women during the 19th century. The oppression and domination the women experienced are also included under these symbolic illustrations. The patterns that were on the wallpaper described as bars represented the whole society that was male dominate. The woman trying to escape from the bars represented the women in the community attempting to regain their freedoms of expression (Martin 736). Those unblinking eyes that stared at her all the time indicated that they witnessed her experiencing the rough time with her husband throughout the entire period. They signified her as a person who was just present to be seen but not listened to by anyone. Lastly, the color yellow of the paper is the imagery of the weak nature and oppression of the women in the 1900s. The disease Jane was suffering from was one of the examples of oppression.
Aside from the wallpaper and aspects related to it, there are other symbols employed in the storyline. The baby represented the position women were places in society during that 19th century. They were only given the duty of motherhood. Nothing was expected of them in other fields of society, such as education and politics (Gilman 265). The moonlight was an indication of a time for the women. During the day, the woman inside the pattern was not moving while she shook the bars wanting to escape from the cage during the night.
At the conclusion of the narrative, the raconteur liberates herself from her oppressor, who was John. The way she continued creeping around his body represented freedom and liberation. She had broken the bars that represented imprisonment from the wallpaper. Furthermore, this acted as the climax of the story (Women’s Encounters with the Mental Health Establishment 4). She had freed herself but did not have the mental capability to know what to do with the freedom she had achieved. Her husband’s fainting was a sign of the defeat of the oppressor.
Another style of writing included in the paper was aspects of irony and suspense. Dramatic irony is seen in many sections of the narration. First, she says how she is glad that her case is not as critical while, in the real sense, her case is very vital. Another irony that takes over the narration is how the vacation was intended to be a treatment for Jane’s ailment, but it ends up causing more harm to her. This type of irony is termed situational irony because the main reason the action was intended does not go as planned. There is also irony when the narrator’s fate does not go as planned as she ends up losing her individuality and sense of reason altogether.
The suspense in the story is mainly displayed in the end. The conclusion does not give a solid description of what happened after the husband fainted and after Jane lost her mind completely. It remains unknown whether he regained his consciousness and whether Jane could develop her sense of reason and self-consciousness. It is also unknown what happened when Jennie found the two characters in their conditions and what she did afterward to solve the situation. Lastly, the baby is not described further after it is put under the care of the nurse in the home.
In conclusion, The Yellow Wallpaper is a very informative story expressing the various phenomenon of the 19thcentury. The medical issues of the narrator are fully affected by her interactions with her husband and the surrounding. The interrelation between her and the wallpaper gives the best justification for the negative outcomes of her mental health condition. The wallpaper, being a reflection of her whole situation, made her completely lose her sanity. The interaction between the narrator and her husband is another aspect that results in adverse outcomes. The way he treats her like a child and is deaf to all her opinions displays the society gender roles present during the time. The feelings of total devastation and inferiority resulting from how she was being treated also played a significant role in damaging her sanity. The main theme of feminism and the suffering of women is demonstrated throughout the narrative. This narrative is very effective as it highlights the various social issues women face in society and their effects.
In finality, it is noted that the women involved with any mental or physical illness should be given a chance to choose the modes of treatment for best suitable for them. They should not be given remedies recommended by other practitioners as they may result in very negative outcomes. The opinions highlighted by the individuals should be well-heard and consequently implemented. This will result in greater improvements than opting for other uncertain alternatives.
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