The Oppression of Women Exposed in The Yellow Wallpaper
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is remembered today principally for her feminist work "The Yellow Wallpaper." It dramatizes her life and her experience with Dr. S. Weir Mitchell's now infamous "rest cure." Commonly prescribed for women suffering from "hysteria," the rest cure altogether forbade company, art, writing, or any other form of intellectual stimulation. When Mitchell prescribed this for Gilman, he told her to "'live a domestic life as far as possible,' to 'have but two hours' intellectual life a day,' and 'never to touch pen, brush or pencil again' as long as I lived" ("Why I Wrote . . . n.p.). It nearly drove her insane. She began to recover only when she returned to …show more content…
As the story opens, the narrator is completely under her husband's control and has no developed personality of her own. She seems concerned only with what "John says," and he seems to have a very low opinion of her mental capability. The narrator feels trapped into her husband's coldly rational world, with its distaste for imagination and creative thought. Lisa Kasmer argues that this sense of entrapment prevents the narrator from being able to articulate her feelings (7). It bars her from developing a sense of self. Her language reflects this; constant references to herself as "one" create a "haunting echo of anonymity . . ." (Golden 195). She is locked into the nineteenth-century stereotype of women as intellectually inferior to men.
John maintains a condescending attitude towards the narrator throughout the story; every time she speaks seriously to him, he brushes her off laughingly. For example, when she notices "something queer" about the house, and voices her concerns to John, "he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window" "Wallpaper" 301). Additionally, when they select their