Analysis of Setting in Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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Eric Fitzgerald
Critical Essay
Keith Wilhite
10/22/12

Analysis: The Yellow Wallpaper

In works of literature, authors tend to use various literary techniques to help the reader understand the work without an explicit explanation. In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses setting to connect with the theme in order to give the reader an understanding of the narrator’s developing insanity along the common gender roles of the late 19th century. The narrator records journal entries that document the decline of her mental state throughout her progressively slanted perception of reality. Her decline in mental health, which seemingly begins as relatively steady, eventually becomes broken in a way that is exemplified through her explanation of the physical setting. Setting is used as a basis of the plot because without its unique setting, the story would have less credibility of being plausible. Gilman provides a compatible setting and theme, which leads to a smooth plotline in the story. The story takes place in a pleasant summerhouse that the narrator’s husband John has rented out for three months to give his wife time to relax and recover from her illness. This setting immediately tells the reader that the husband and wife live upper-middle class or upper class lives. John, “a physician of high standing”, clearly does very well for himself financially as he lives comfortably enough to rent out a luxurious summer home for the three months of summer (316). Although the narrator refers to the rental rate of the home as cheap, it is still a luxury expense that not many families would so freely incur. This detail suggests that John makes a good amount of money and allows the reader to infer how this family lives. Because Gilman has provided this setting, the reader is able to assume these more descriptive aspects of the story. The narrator’s first entry in her diary seem sane when read superficially, however the way she views her...
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