Millett Argues, “the Private Sphere Is Just Like the Public Realm”. How Far Do You Agree That This Criticism May Be Applied to the Yellow Wallpaper?

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Millett argues, “the private sphere is just like the public realm”. How far do you agree that this criticism may be applied to the Yellow Wallpaper? In the ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ the reader sees a parallel between the yellow wallpaper, and a female entrapped within the domestic sphere. When thinking about how the private sphere and public realm may apply to this metaphorical figure, it may be suggested that daytime represents the ‘public realm’ as this is when the wallpaper, alongside the metaphorical figure behind it, is most shown and observed. Contrastingly, nighttime is the equivalent to the ‘private sphere’, as this is when the wallpaper and metaphorical figure is most alone and least observed. By progressing with this ideology, during the daytime, and in the ‘public realm’ the wallpaper is described to have a “silly and conspicuous front design” suggesting that the female behind the wallpaper is portraying a somewhat fake and “silly” persona. This links with the traditional stereotype of a female within the patriarchal society of the novella. The choice to describe this as “conspicuous” suggests that this persona is obviously false. Perhaps Gilman is implying that the way women were compelled to conform to this persona should be addressed. However, in nighttime, and in the ‘private realm’, the wallpaper changes and is as “plain as can be” suggesting that the “silly” persona that this female gives off within the public realm has perhaps sucked the life and soul out of the female. It may also be argued that the term “plain” is Gilman suggesting that females within the 20th century were purely blank canvases, restricted from embracing their own true and colourful persona; and instead were metaphorically ‘painted’ to fit the stereotype in which they were limited to. It may be suggested that the fabricated persona of women within the 20th century was disregarded at night, giving such a persona little significance. More importantly, it could be argued that the focus on appearance actually deprived the women of any substantial and authentic beauty, as all their focus has been on their exterior. Therefore, the adjective “silly” captures the lack of substance within the women of this era, and the metaphorical figure behind the paper. This change in personality diverges from Millett’s criticism that the private sphere is just like the public realm, however, as a reader we must remember that this metaphorical female is entrapped within the “bars” of the wallpaper throughout both day and night, meaning this isolated and constrained emotion is felt both in the private sphere; night time, and in the public realm, day time. It may be said that a female reading this novella within the 20th century would relate to the isolation brought upon by a male dominated society. Conversely, this may shock a modern day audience, as the level of confinement would be perceived to be shocking and unfamiliar. However, during the 1960s there was an ideological revolution, which insured that women would not tolerate being subjugated. Therefore, it could be said that this modern day mentality was heavily influenced by the “woman’s movement” in the 1960s, as “many saw it as vital to combat and question their authority and their coherence.” [1]

There is an evident divide between the external and public setting of the gardens surrounding the nursery, in comparison to the internal and private setting of the “colonial mansion”, thus creating a conflict between the two. Instantly, the “colonial mansion” evokes an air of masculinity, alongside the fact that it was a “hereditary state” suggesting that this building was passed down a line of men. The nursery is described as having “barred windows” that harbours a “bedstead” that is “nailed down”, inferring that this ‘private sphere’ is extremely similar to that of a prison, therefore heightening the entrapment surrounding the female narrator, whilst also suggesting that the metonymy of this entrapment is due to...
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