The Yellow Wallpaper

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"The Yellow Wallpaper"
Many intellectual artists, who are widely acclaimed for their literary work, live in a world characterized by "progressive insanity" (Gilman 20). Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one such individual. A writer during the early 20th century, Gilman suffered from bouts of deep depression, due part to her dissatisfaction with the limitations of her role as wife and mother. Her writing, particularly her famous story "The Yellow Wallpaper" reflects experiences from her personal life. In doing so, "she achieved some control over both her illness and her past" (Lane 128). Many people still admire the fact that Gilman wrote her piece "to save people from being driven crazy;" however, perhaps she wrote the story t rescue herself from the psychological distress that she often suffered. (Gilman 20) Many people find the conclusion of "The Yellow Wallpaper" problematic because the protagonist ends up insane. Others, however, have offered an alternative reading of the story, one which posits that the protagonist's response to her profoundly oppressive situation is perhaps the most "normal" and "healthy" response to her. Clearly Gilman had a great deal to say about the restrictions placed on women in the early 20th century. "The Yellow Wallpaper" explores a young woman's gradual psychological demise. In doing so, however, readers may also observe the gradual liberation of a woman. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator who is suffering from depression, takes a trip to the country for the summer, with her husband and their baby. Her husband has diagnosed his wife's condition as merely "a temporary nervous depression" (Gilman 4) and he decides to move her to a nursery that is located at the top of the house. She is surrounded by ugly yellow wallpaper and barred windows. Disturbed by the wallpaper, she asks her husband for another room or different wallpaper; however, he refuses. The woman becomes increasingly unhappy as she is forced t occupy a room that she despises. In this deprived environment, the pattern of the wallpaper becomes increasingly compelling. The figure of a woman begins to take shape behind the pattern of the paper. At night the pattern becomes bars, and the woman in the wallpaper is imprisoned. As her imagination worsens, she frantically rips off the paper in order to free the woman she perceives is trapped inside. As the story reaches its conclusion the narrator locks herself in the room and when her husband finally unlocks the door, he is terrified to find her creeping around the room. "I've got out at last," she tells him, "and I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back" (Gilman 19). Her husband faints and she keeps crawling over him. As you can see, the yellow wallpaper represents a different reality. It is "living paper", aggressively alive (Treichler 191): You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream (Gilman 12). The narrator strongly resists the wallpaper because it constantly forces its ugliness upon her mind. The paper serves as an unattractive, unresolved and complex symbol throughout the story. "The female lineage that the wallpaper represents is thick, with life, expression, and suffering (Treichler 193). The pattern of the paper serves as an agitating and distracting pattern: This paper looks to [the narrator] as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at [her] upside down. [She gets] positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are [surrounding her everywhere] (Gilman 7). Many critics find this passage as an essential theme to the story. During this scene, the lifeless wallpaper...
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