The Underlying Themes of the Yellow Wallpaper

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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper, the female protagonist veers from the majority of patriarchal societies because of her distinct feelings of frustration, alienation, and emotional and creative repression within this social formation. Ultimately, in order to escape this early twentieth century state of mind, the female protagonist goes insane. However tragic this may appear on the surface, the suggestion of deliverance from her restricted environment is one of freedom of the dominant culture. Although the narrator escapes the narrow restraints of mentality through insanity, the underlying themes of The Yellow Wallpaper help to shed light on the narrators’ delirium.

The Yellow Wallpaper was written in 1892 and is from the vantage point of a woman. This story was written in a time when women were not supposed to have individual thoughts or personalities. At this point in history, the social roles of women were very well defined: mothers and caretakers of the family, prim and proper creatures that were pleasant to look at, they were seen but not heard, and were considered unreasonable and emotional. Men on the other hand were the active workers of the family: they had jobs, knowledge and everything the women didn’t. This story is about a woman, known as the narrator, who is suffering from depression and a nervous breakdown. Her husband John is a physician who believes that she is not sick but is suffering from a temporary stint of nervous depression. He assumes that his own superior wisdom and maturity is at its climax but it leads him to misjudge, demean, and dominate his wife, all in the name of “helping” her. He decides to take her to an isolated country house to help her recover. Although his intentions might have been good, her recovery is not being helped by the fact that her husband has forced her to inhabit a room with irritating features, that is to say the wallpaper. From the beginning, the most intolerable aspect...
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