The Yellow Wallpaper Gender Analysis

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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. The mad female figure is able to rebel against the constructed binaries of rationality and gender, regaining a sense of agency …show more content…
The mad female figure gains a heightened sense of self-reflexivity and awareness of herself as an authentic individual. This is seen in the systemic form of madness that she encounters. While the narrator is isolated by patriarchal society seen in the symbolic positioning of the nursery room that is “at the top of the house” (648), this isolation breeds a form of self-reflexivity and awareness as her madness progresses, where the narrator uses her room as a vantage point to spy on others. Additionally, the madness increases the narrator’s awareness of her entrapment by patriarchal society. This realization is illuminated through the revelation of the meaning of the wallpaper. The wallpaper becomes a symbol of the suffocating patriarchal society seen in the imagery of strangled women behind bars, and the narrator’s resentment of it begins to grow as she realizes what it symbolizes. This resentment is reflected in the narrator “[getting] positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness” (649-50). As such, this realization of the insidious nature of patriarchal society results in outbursts varying from anger to obsession with destroying, increasing in intensity as her madness progresses. This self-reflexivity of her entrapment is reflected in the idea that “there are things in that paper that nobody knows but [her], or ever will” (652). Deciphering the …show more content…
Through madness, the narrator cannot be contained, seen in her parallel with the figure in the wallpaper which “seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out” (652). This assertion of agency is seen the narrator making an active decision and “got up and ran to help [the figure]” (655), ripping the wallpaper in the process. The ripping of wallpaper highlights an active role in tearing down the construct of patriarchy and follows her ceasure to take instructions or acquiesce, such as not wanting to sleep downstairs, or open the door for John. This assertion of self also subverts the gender roles, where John faints in the final scene and in turn rendered helpless, a stark contrast to the narrator’s constant creeping. This constant motion compared to John’s motionless body indicates the narrator’s wresting of control and liberation. This progression towards an active action and renouncing of the previous role of passivity highlights the breakdown of gendered hierarchy which attempts to contain

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