The Narrator In The Yellow Wallpaper

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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

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