The Yellow Wallpaper

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American Gothic literature of the late nineteenth century can generally be characterized by its interest in Psychology. Rather than incorporate the supernatural or science fiction, which is the foci in other Gothic works at the time, authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and Charlotte Perkins Gilman use this mental condition of their protagonist in order to achieve the expected Gothic reaction. Specifically, in Gilman's "the Yellow Wallpaper", the protagonist, a white, middle class housewife diagnosed with depression, sinks into insanity right before the readers eyes; her psychology unfolds and produces that horrific reaction appropriate for the American Gothic. This, however, in not the only product of Gilman's work. Through literary style, unusual characterization, and a haunting (and knowledgeable) account of madness, Gilman makes her intended statement effectively: nineteenth century women were not only repressed, but practically driven to inhumanity by the men who overprotected and underestimated them. Both traditional Gothic elements and productive special position are laced throughout Gilman's short story.

To first look at a piece of fiction, one must examine it's technical aspects, that is, the literary style with which it is written. In the Gothic tradition, "the Yellow Wallpaper" is written using a unique narrative technique. The narrator is also the protagonist, whose actions and thoughts the reader learns about through her journal. This tool brings the narrator to life and gives the reader a sense of trust in the main character, Jane. In the beginning of the story, the narrator describes the setting, the other characters, and her feelings. Because she is in a position of weakness, the reader sympathasizes with her melancholy and shares her resentment for her physician husband, John, who "does not believe that [she is] sick!" (Gilman 249). Telling the story in first person also exemplifies Gilman's feminist ideology: by giving the central of the story telling to the female protagonist, she joins other prolific Victorian writers. In the tradition of Charlotte Brante and Jane Auster, Gilman places a woman at the core of the story. Thereby thumbing her nose at the majority that more often chase men as literal focal points.

Another literary choice that hinges the meaning to the story is Gilman's diction; she weanes normalcy and lunacy together so well that they blend to produce a realistic account of insanity. When the reader meets Jane, she is personable and she feels sympathy towards her plight. Her husband seems the irrational one, as he cannot she her plainly stated need for "congenial work, with excitement and charge"(249). But, soon, the reader notices the harshness and violence of Jane's thoughts that mix with calm, feminine words: "the floor is scratched and gonged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed…looks as if it had been through the wars. But I don't mind it a bit" (253). Another notable example is the use of the word ‘creep'. At the finale, Jane sees creeping women out the window, she sees the woman in the wallpaper creeping, and finally, when Jane faints, "[she] had to creep over him every time!" (263). the repetition of the word to her adds swirling and incoherent thoughts, as well as links Jane to the woman whom she eventually becomes. Gilman certainly uses the word creepily.

By choosing the short story as her medium of expression, Gilman increases the Gothic effect: the reader is drawn in quickly, tossed about in the woman's spiraling lunacy, and left hanging on a strange and (un) interpretable finale. Were this tale told in another style, it would be dsumpened by the inability to feature short and personal phrases that could only represent one's thought patterns: "personally, I disagree with their ideas…but, what is one to do?" (249). Also, because "the Yellow Wallpaper" must be read as a social statement and not simply as a...
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