The Way of Women’s Resistances to Patriarchy in “the Yellow Wallpaper”

Topics: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, Silas Weir Mitchell Pages: 5 (1659 words) Published: January 23, 2013
The way of women’s resistances to patriarchy in “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is on the surface a mysterious story about a woman suffering from depression to mad, but actually, it reveals the oppression of women from their patriarchal families. In the late 19th century, women couldn’t enjoy the freedom they do today, and most of them suffered from hysteria. The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a typical example of those women who live with low social status. In my opinion, the reason resulting in her lower social situation is the narrator’s retreat from the reality, and the narrator must break the tradition of patriarchy if she wants more rights and free. In this story, the narrator’s economic dependence on her husband made her live in a low position in the family and struggle with the oppression from her husband. These oppressions and constraints leaded her to mentally ill. To avoid becoming the servant of the man, the narrator decided to challenge the patriarchy, and finally she broke the tradition and released her true self. The image of the narrator created by Gilman leads most women to express their discontents to the man-dominant society. Deborah Thomas describes in “The Changing Role of Womanhood”, “prior to the twentieth century, men assigned and defined women’s roles”, and they “perpetrated an ideological prison that subjected and silenced women”(1). “I”, as the nameless narrator of the story, provides a vivid example of oppressed women who struggled in low position of the society. At the beginning of the story, “I” was taken to “a haunt house” which is “standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village”(Gilman 87). The room of “I”, “a big, airy room” with “barred windows”, was described like a prison (Gilman 89). These images are enough to illustrate that “I” was confined. In addition, the attitude of the character’s husband also showed the low social position of women. Interestingly, both character’s husband and brother were “high standing” physicians and “I” just was a patient with ”temporary nervous depression”(Gilman 87). That means women must comply with the men’s request in family such as stopping writing and thinking. In the story, “I” thought “personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do”(Gilman 88). This description proves that John doesn’t pay attention to his wife’s demands. In fact, John often treated her as a child. John referred the narrator to “”little girl” and repeatedly cooed such phrases as “ blessed little goose”(Gilman 90). All mentioned above show the women received no equality at that time. “I” was confined in the nursery and without companionship. This situation made the hysteria of “I” get worse and “I” began to have illusions. “I” felt there was “a woman stooping down and creeping about” behind the yellow wallpaper (Gilman 94). The image of the woman behind the wallpaper shows the readers another oppressed woman. Actually, the narrator projected her oppressive experience into the woman behind the wallpaper, and the yellow wallpaper was used to symbolize the patriarchy. As Hochman says in “The Reading Habit and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”, “the narrator herself becomes a reader-an avid, indeed and obsessive reader-of the paper on the walls that surround her”(90). So in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator’s attitude to the yellow wallpaper, actually, is her attitude to the patriarchy. When “I” came into the nursery, “I” noticed the wallpaper immediately. In narrator’s opinion, the wallpaper is “committing every artistic sin” and “the color is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight”(Gilman 89). That means the narrator was disgusted with the patriarchy. Moreover, the narrator also thought the wallpaper “was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition or symmetry, or anything...

Cited: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” American Gothic Tales.
Ed.Joyce Carol Oates. US: 1996. 87-102. Print.
Hochman, Barbara. “The Reading Habit and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”. American
Literature 74.1 (2002): 89-110. Print.
Simone, Deborah M. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Feminization of Education”. The
Women in Literature and Life Assembly. Volume 4 (1995): 13-17
Thomas, Deborah. “The Changing Role of Womanhood: From True Woman to New
Woman in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”. 27 July 1998. 23 Nov. 2012 <>
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