A literary Analysis of the Yellow Wallpaper

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Essay on The Yellow Wallpaper
– A literary analysis and interpretation

At a time where women had little say in how to live their own lives, increasingly more female novelists began to write about gender roles with a critical outlook on the patriarchal structure in society. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one example of a feminist social criticism from the late 1800’s. In this short story, the female protagonist is prohibited to do what she wants to do and instead is forced by her husband to rest alone in a room to cure her of her postnatal depression, thus ironically becoming more ill and hallucinative.

In The yellow wallpaper, the protagonist is introduced as a woman with seemingly a lot of literary potential from what we get to know about her passion for writing, enthusiastic and detailed observations of her surroundings and her vivid imagination. However, she is in an unfortunate situation where she is not allowed any mental activity, because it is believed by her husband and society to be the right treatment for women with a nervous condition. As an example she is told by her husband John, a physician and man of “high standing”, that: […] with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. In other words, the protagonist is ordered by her husband to restrain herself, which can also be interpreted as a general portrait of the repression of women in society. On the other hand the protagonist speaks very fondly of John and expresses that he does everything in well meaning: Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. In this way, the portrayal of John and the male gender role is not antagonistic as such, which gives room to nuanced reflections about male and female gender roles in that period of time. Yet in spite of that, the protagonist still shows signs of...
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