Topics: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gothic fiction, Feminism Pages: 4 (1490 words) Published: May 9, 2014
Is ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ more of a Gothic than a feminist text? The Yellow Wallpaper is a novella by American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1982. Gilman uses Gothic fiction to embellish her own personal experience with post natal depression; to delve into the mental health of a young woman who seems to get more unstable by the day – all because of a particular yellow wallpaper that she finds to be irritatingly repulsive. The nameless female narrator in Gilman’s story is an upper-middle class wife who is suffering from a nervous disorder after having a child. The woman’s husband (also her doctor) John, prescribes his wife with the rest cure which removes her from social situations and human interaction and confines her to a room in which the vile yellow wallpaper dwells. This is where her insanity develops. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is recognised as an early feminist indictment of Victorian patriarchy. Gothic literature allows writers to explore ideas that may not have been prevalent in conventional literature of the time, this text in particular contains many typical Gothic trappings, the main one here being a female character feeling threatened and/or being dominated by a powerful, superior and tyrannical male character, but beneath the conventional façade lies a tale of repression and freedom told in intricate symbolism as seen through the eyes of a mad narrator. Although the autobiographical aspects of “The Yellow Wallpaper” are compelling, it is the symbolism and the underlying feminist connotations that give the novella depth and creates a dark atmosphere. First is John, the narrator’s husband. He could be viewed as the patriarchy itself, many of the passages concerning the woman’s husband can be seen to contain sarcasm, a great many seem to contain irony, and several almost border on parody. It could be said that the character of John represents “control” and “sanity” and is therefore his wife’s opposite. The house in which...

Bibliography: Bertens, H. (2001) Literary Theory: The Basics, (The Politics of Class: Marxism), (pp 94-5, 97-99), Abingdon: Routledge.
Barry, P. (2002). Beginning Theory (2nd Edition), (p134), Manchester University Press.
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