The Yellow Wallpaper

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The yellow wallpaper –
Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman critiques the position of women within the institution of marriage. She uses a number of literary devices to express the political theme of feminism and the oppression of women. For Gilman, the conventional nineteenth-century marriage, with its rigid distinction between the “domestic” functions of the female and the “active” work of the male, ensured that women remained second-class citizens. The story reveals that this gender division had the effect of keeping women in a childish state of ignorance and preventing their full development. John’s assumption of his own superior wisdom and maturity leads him to misjudge, patronize, and dominate his wife, all in the name of “helping” her. The narrator is reduced to acting like a petulant child, unable to stand up for herself without seeming unreasonable or disloyal. The mental constraints placed upon the narrator, even more so than the physical ones, are what ultimately drive her insane. She is forced to hide her anxieties and fears in order to preserve their “happy marriage”. The narrator is clearly feeling trapped in a marriage that does not allow her freedom. Meanwhile, as a man, her husband is free to come and go. This inability for her to express herself in a meaningful way eventually leads her to associate herself with the woman in the wallpaper who looks to be, like the narrator, behind bars or in a cage. So, given the fact that the narrator feels trapped by both her husband and surroundings, it is not farfetched to assume that the woman she sees behind the wallpaper is a symbol of herself and the Victorian women like her. The many heads can be seen as a symbol of all the things the woman wants to do, She wishes she could write and have guests over, but she can’t and instead, the woman in the wallpaper has all these “heads” or ideas of what she wants to do. Conversely, these heads could also represent the many male...
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