The Yellow Wallpaper: Male Oppression of Women in Society

1311 Words Sep 28th, 1999 6 Pages
The Yellow Wallpaper: Male Oppression of Women in Society

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is a commentary on the male oppression of women in a patriarchal society. However, the story itself presents an interesting look at one woman's struggle to deal with both physical and mental confinement. This theme is particularly thought-provoking when read in today's context where individual freedom is one of our most cherished rights.
This analysis will focus on two primary issues: 1) the many vivid images Gilman uses to illustrate the physical and symbolic confinement the narrator endures during her illness; and 2) the overall effect of, and her reaction to, this confinement. The Yellow Wallpaper begins with the narrator's
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John's behavior illustrates his covert efforts to control his wife as well. He looks to the narrator's brother, who is also a physician, to validate his diagnosis and prescribed cure, making it even more difficult for the narrator to challenge the prescription herself. He repeatedly diminishes her by laughing at her and not taking her grievances seriously. The narrator complains
"John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him." John's contempt for his wife's ideas is blatant; he refers to her as a "little girl," and when she requests that she be moved to a different room downstairs, he "took [her] in his arms and called
[her] a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if [she] wished, and have it whitewashed into the bargain." That he is only willing to move her into the basement, instead of allowing her a room of her choice, epitomizes his domineering personality. As the woman descends into madness, she notices that the pattern in the wallpaper "becomes bars" in the moonlight and that "the woman behind it is as plain as can be." Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar assert that the woman behind the wallpaper is the narrator's doppelg nger (10). This woman is symbolic of the narrator's own confinement by the patriarchal society she lives in. Moreover, we see that the wallpaper is a metaphor of her

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