The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Passiveness and Mental Instability

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Passiveness and Mental Instability in The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper is a short-story written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story is written from a first person perspective, that of a woman who is being isolated as “therapy” for her depression, possibly post-partum. The story details her slow descent into madness from being kept in this room, with a grotesque yellow wallpaper on the walls, to a vague conclusion. The story shows us a great deal about the suppression of women in their own marriages, the importance of being able to express one-self, and the utter uselessness of the so called “resting cure.” At the time that The Yellow Wallpaper was written, women were not much more than living dishwashers, food cookers, and baby makers. They were thought to be completely dependent on their reproductive system, and that their only goal, or even purpose, in life was to make babies. Creative thought, intellectualism, higher education, all were thought to be men's affairs, and thus too far out of a woman's range to let her pursue them. The inequality of marriage, at the time, often kept women childlike and naïve. Wives were often expected to be quiet, well-mannered, and not too smart. The fact that we never find out the name of the the protagonist is another nod to this fact. Women were, essentially, interchangeable. She does not need a name, because she could be literally anyone. She has been dehumanized, to a point. The only things we see her husband call her are “dear” and “goose” and “little girl,” diminutive pet names that belittle the wife. Throughout the story, we see other clues to the probably constant belittling in their relationship. Referring to her “nervous condition”, her depression; “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in a marriage.” He refuses to repaper the room and get rid of the yellow wallpaper that is exacerbating her delusions, saying that it will only encourage her. It could be argued that the woman retreats...
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