The Yellow Wallpaper Feminism

Superior Essays
In the nineteenth century, males controlled, made decisions for, and overpowered women. John, the main character’s husband, demostrates this in the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” John is a controlling, overpowering husband who makes all the decisions for his wife, even if she disagrees with him. She listens to him but speaks her mind in her journal, which is kept a secret from everyone but herself. Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses symbolism and a feminist perspective to show male domination in the nineteenth century in her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In the nineteenth century, mental illness was not understood, especially in women. John is a physician who diagnoses the woman with a “temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical …show more content…
This is the worst part of the cure because the woman craves intellectual stimulation and work through writing. She tries to explain to anyone who will listen that all she wants to do is write, but because of John, she cannot. John is fearful of her imagination and fails to understand her imaginative and artistic powers, which is why he believes writing will make her even sicker. He believes “mental illness is the result of using one’s imagination, the creation of an attractive ‘fancy’ which the mind then fails to distinguish from reality”(Shumaker). The woman must work, so she keeps a secret journal in which she speaks truthfully to “dead paper” instead of confiding in “a living soul” (Gilman 152). Since John refuses to let his wife write, “her mind turns to the wallpaper, and she begins to find in its tangled pattern the emotions and experiences she is forbidden to record” (Shumaker). Not being allowed to write or move to a different room are essentially the reasons for the woman’s mental breakdown. She dedicates all her time and effort into studying the wallpaper, which in turn drives her to madness. If it were not for John and his desire to control everything the woman does and even thinks, the mental breakdown may not have happened. The woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” has a feminist perspective; she knows that she is right and doing …show more content…
Since John took away all his wife’s tools of imagination, such as writing, she has no choice but to put all her time and energy into the wallpaper and the woman behind the wallpaper. The wallpaper becomes text that she must interpret. The ostensibly formless pattern fascinates the narrator as she attempts to figure out how it is organized. After staring at the paper for hours, she sees a sub-pattern behind the main pattern, visible only in certain light. Eventually, the sub-pattern comes into focus as a desperate woman, constantly crawling and creeping, looking for an escape from behind the main pattern, which has come to resemble a cage. The narrator sees the heads of many women, all of whom are strangled as they try to escape the caged wallpaper. The wallpaper represents medicine and the inaccurate diagnosis of all mental illnesses, and tradition, such as male domination, in which the woman finds herself trapped. Gilman uses the hideous paper as a symbol of the domestic life that traps so many women. The narrator sees the woman behind the wallpaper as a prisoner, similar to her being a prisoner in the room. The woman in the wallpaper represents the narrator and how she is confined and cannot escape. She desperately wants to help the woman escape, and becomes obsessed with her. The woman behind the wallpaper parallels the narrator’s struggle

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