The Yellow Wallpaper
For women of the twentieth century, who have more freedom than before and have not experienced the oppressive life that Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced from 1860 to 1935, it is difficult to understand Gilman's situation and understand the significance of "The Yellow Wallpaper." Gilman's original purpose of writing the story was to gain personal satisfaction if Dr. S. Weir Mitchell might change his treatment after reading the story. More importantly, Gilman says in her article in The Forerunner, "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked" (939). Therefore, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a revelation of Gilman's own emotions.
When the story first came out in 1892 the critics considered "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a portrayal of female insanity rather than a story that reveals an aspect of society. This statement implies that any woman that would write something to show opposition to the dominant social values must have been insane. In Gilman's time setting the ideal woman was not only assigned a social role that locked her into her home, but she was also expected to like it, to be cheerful and gay, smiling and good humored. Those women who rejected this role and pursued intellectual enlightenment and freedom would be scoffed, alienated, and even punished. The “Yellow Wallpaper” became Gilman’s reaction to the strain against the grain of society for women to pursue intellectual freedom or a career in the late 1800's.
Her taking Dr. S. Weir Mitchell's "rest cure" was the result of the pressures of these prevalent social values. Charlotte Gilman was born on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut (Bourgoin) in a family boasting a list of revolutionary thinkers and writers. As Gilman came from a family of such well known feminists and revolutionaries, it is without a doubt that she grew up with the idea that she had the right to be treated as anyone, whether man or woman. Not only did...
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