The Narrator In The Yellow Wallpaper

Improved Essays
The Ghost Story of the Narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a tale of the Gothic tradition. Gilman wrote this story in a somewhat subversive manner, detailing the disturbing and ridiculous nature of medical treatment, specifically the “rest cure” that was popular during the Victorian Era. It could be argued that the narrator is a ghost herself, made that way by the repression of her individuality by her husband and society. The form in which the story is written, the genre in which it belongs to, and the character of the narrator describes the ways in which the narrator struggles to fight the society that made her a ghost of herself. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is written in journal …show more content…
The narrator is clearly being stifled, going insane. The symbol of the yellow wallpaper hold significance to this effect. The wallpaper represents a few ideas, such as the narrator’s own mind, the narrator’s subconscious, and the economic and social dependence of women on their husbands (Triechler, 64). As the story progresses, the wallpaper evolves from simply being ugly and unclean - the narrator refers to it as “that horrid paper” (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, 470) - to holding entities behind the pattern. It could be argued, based on the loss of her individuality due to the ‘rest cure’, that the narrator sees herself as the woman in the wallpaper, ghostly and trapped. This woman is looking to be set free; the narrator describes one night when “the faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out” (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, 474). In addition, the woman behind the pattern of the wallpaper represents several ideas, such as the narrator herself, the narrator’s subconscious, and the idea that all women are trapped in the domestic sphere in the Victorian Era (Triechler, 64). The wallpaper itself takes on more and more significance to the narrator the longer she spends locked in this room. In other words, with the loss of more and more of her sense of self, the more important and meaningful the wallpaper becomes. She seems to transfer …show more content…
Hume, author of the article “Gilman’s ‘Interminable Grotesque’”, describes the narrator as struggling with both herself and society, and that the symbols of the story, such as the entity the narrator perceives is behind the wallpaper pattern, are grotesquely comedic. By painting the symbols, and the narrator, in a comedic way, Gilman thumbed her nose at Victorian society, and especially how she was treated for depression. For instance, Gilman describes her narrator as “creeping”, an act that is somewhat subversive, repetitive, and comical (Hume, 479). Hume describes a disturbingly ridiculous story, and claims that this was Gilman’s intention. Gilman perhaps desired to expose the field of psychiatry as a sham, detailing the ridiculousness of her story in response to this notion.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is, at its core, a commentary on Victorian society regarding the treatment of women. The symbolism of the mansion and the wallpaper signify the prison of the domestic sphere in which women were forced to live. In addition, the Gothic genre of the tale can also encompass the subgenre of the Feminine Gothic, in which women were frighteningly dependent on men. Gilman intended to fight the system with this story, detailing the cruel and ridiculous nature of the treatment of women, both medically and

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Gender Division in the Yellow Wallpaper In the story The Yellow Wallpaper written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gilman uses the tale of psychological insanity to portray the position of women, especially pointing to married women. Readers understand this story to be a horror tale about a woman who loses her mind, but little do they know that there is much more to just all the symbols of insanity but also the theme of gender division in the Nineteenth century. Firstly, the yellow wallpaper reveals a gender division between John and his wife due to his ignorance towards her. John’s superiority towards his career as a physician causes him to misjudge his wife only to help her or so he thinks he's helping her. She is forced to hide her fears in…

    • 705 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The Turn of the Screw focuses on the idea of what we are told and what is left unsaid. Because of this, critics have read The Turn of The Screw in two ways. The classical reading has us accept that what we read is true, the ghosts are real and the Miles’ death is as a result of their evil corruption. The alternative is that the governess is mad and that the story is a psychological investigation into the governess’ actions. In his famous essay The Ambiguities of Henry James, Edmund Wilson asserts that "the young governess who tells the story is a neurotic case of sex repression, and the ghosts are not real ghosts at all but merely the governess 's hallucinations" it is Wilson’s suggestion that Mile’s is frightened to death by the governess at the end of the novella (Parkinson 3).…

    • 1444 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, there is a constant gender dynamic present between the female narrator and her husband, seen in their antagonistic interactions. This dynamic sets up a hierarchy which restricts the woman’s agency and dismisses her concerns. This constant dismissal and subjugation of the female figure denies her of authenticity and agency, driving her to the brink of madness. However, the madness inflicted as a result of stifling patriarchy becomes a tool of emancipation for the female figure. Through madness, there is a disavowal of patriarchal society and its excessive rationality.…

    • 1243 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    By exposing sexism and authoritarianism inherent in the “Bluebeard’s tale,” “The Bloody Chamber” puts forth a new way of using the fairy tale genre. Nevertheless, “The Bloody Chamber,” also discusses the limitations of the feminist use of the genre. For instance, the mark made by the key on the forehead of the young bride remains and she lives in shame even after the Marquis is killed, and that too for no fault of hers. It points to the limitations of experimenting with conventionally patriarchal genres. “The Bloody Chamber,” interpreted as a warning to writers of female gothic, also hints at the dangers of being straddled between affirmation and subversion of the excesses of the genre they choose to parody.…

    • 1749 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    “Jealousy is a mental cancer” (B.C. Forbes). This quote summarizes the 1860 play, Hedda Gabler, and the main protagonist’s battle with her own internal pressures. The play could be analyzed through several perspectives such as Marxism, feminism and existentialism. In Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, the tone of this play is one that tries to show the blunders of the Victorian rules which give Hedda depression and stress, leading to internal pressures such as materialism, manipulation, and jealousy which ultimately lead to her suicide.…

    • 1362 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    At first it should be analysed how the wallpaper is described by the narrator in the story. From the beginning on, Jane characterizes it as the worst paper she saw in her life ( 156) and describes it as “horrid paper” (Gilman 1992: 157) with a “vicious influence” (Gilman 1992: 158). Especially the pattern irritates the narrator, because it “confuses the eye” (Gilman 1992: 156). Jane sees unusual expression…

    • 1805 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Great Essays

    In the poems “Medusa” by Duffy and “The Laboratory” by Browning both authors explore the theme of jealousy and its destructive nature on people and society as a whole. In Duffy’s poem “Medusa” she critiques society on its treatment towards women, demonstrating how those without beauty are only corrupted with jealousy and how this behavior has survived through the ages. While Duffy focuses on the impacts of jealousy on the individual Browning looks towards its impacts on society, and its power to twist good people into those who would do anything for personal gain. Browning portrays the speaker as deceptive and bent on revenge. As the speaker observes the poison being made she “(gazes) thro’ ….…

    • 1349 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Gilman crafts a parallel between John’s disregard for his wife’s physical and mental autonomy, and the presence of this oppressive wallpaper. The narrator has no say over her conditions despite the fact that she knows her own self better than anyone else. This symbol of male oppressions elaborates itself further when the narrator begins to notice a woman creeping about in the wallpaper. It’s clear that her mental state deteriorates rapidly, but in this state of delusion, her mind fabricates a character that mirrors her condition. The narrator not only notices this woman, but realizes that the wallpaper traps her and she “takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard” with the intention of “climb[ing] through,” (494).…

    • 1379 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    This isolation, coupled with society’s expectations of women at that time, cause her to dissolve into a complete nervous breakdown. “The Yellow Wallpaper” utilizes imagery, characterization, and personification to show the struggle of a mentally ill woman during the 19th century. The first and most obvious literary device used by Gilman is imagery. From the beginning, when the couple arrives…

    • 1017 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    When thinking of bad mental habits, is obsession something that comes to mind? In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, and Tim O’Brien’s’ “The Things They Carried” obsession is an underlying theme that drives all these stories. Obsession can be a confusing thing that many people face daily, as these characters did; reading about someone with obsession can give a lot of insight on people who are insane and how they’re handling the situation. How else could a woman think she’s trapped behind wallpaper, a lady of stature harbor dead corpses, or a Lieutenant letting one of his own men die without obsession being a huge part of it? Mental illness, insanity, postpartum depression, necrophilia,…

    • 1612 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays