Point of View in Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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Point of view and narrative mode in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" supports and conveys the theme of sanity versus insanity in a number of ways. In her capturing of the authority of narration, Gilman leaves the reader questioning the narrator's reliability. Her repeated use of self-reflexivity and the stream of conscious mode allow the reader to know in what way we are meant to comprehend the events of the story. Finally, the reader is bombarded by signs of the narrator's descent into psychosis while receiving conflicting information from the narrator herself. How is the reader meant to understand the story? Is the narrator too mentally unstable for her story to be taken seriously or is she just sane enough? More to the point, how does the narrative mode lead to this conclusion? Seeing as how Abrams defines an unreliable narrator as "one whose perception, interpretation, and evaluation of the matters he or she narrates do not coincide with the opinions and norms implied by the author, which the author expects the alert reader to share," (244) calling the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" unreliable becomes problematic. This is for the simple reason that the issue of authorship is under debate. The reader is led to believe that the narrator is telling her own story; one similar yet slightly different from the one Gilman herself experienced. Given that this is the case, how can one be sure of the author's intent? Is the reader meant to assume that the story is autobiographical or are they to question the validity and the reality of the narrator's statements? My supposition is that the reader is meant to be unsure of the narrator's reliability. This may be by Gilman's intent or by circumstance. By drawing heavily on her experiences, it is easy to at least argue that she may have been ‘too close' to the story and therefore, could not write objectively. In other words, it seems quite reasonable to assume that Gilman could have taken her own story,...
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