The Yellow Wallpaper- A Dynamic Symbol: A Study of Charlotte Perkins Oilman 's Story
[ 'The Yellow Wallpaper ' was originally published in the January 1892 issue of Afew
England Magazine. In 1973 the Feminist Press issued a reprint of the 1899 version. Both versions have become popular. The present study is based on the original text, contained in the Gilman MSS '].
As a short story 'The Yellow Wallpaper ' is multidimensional. A sensitive woman 's struggle for liberty and freedom becomes in the end a powerful symbol of the feminist struggle for individuality, recognition and equality.
"The story was wrenched out of Gilman 's own life, and is unique in the cannon of her works," says Elain Hedges (37). As a literary masterpiece, the story generates its own meaning; it communicates effectively through images and symbols. In fact it conveys not one meaning but multiple meanings.
Some of the themes touched upon by the author, apart from the struggle for freedom and individual assertion, are - marital relationship, treatment of depression patients, the self and the other, problems confronted by a woman writer and the problem of communication.
Subtle and delicate characterization, feigned innocence, understatement and suggestion, recurrent images and growing sjnnbols, deliberate misspellings and colorful adjectives are some of the narrative-techniques employed by Gilman in building an artistic masterpiece of poignant psychological depth. Pity runs like an undercurrent throughout the story, which in the end turns into admiration. How a woman hungers for freedom to do her thing is subtly conveyed through the dynamic and growing symbol of the yellow wallpaper. Half the charm of the story lies in the attitude of ambivalence adopted by the author towards her unnamed protagonist. The depression malady of the protagonist-narrator deepens as the story progresses and she appears to be totally crazy in the end; but the interior
Cited: 1. 2. 3. JCnight, benise D., ed. Tlie Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Stories of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994. The Yellow Wallpaper, Afterword by Elain R. Hedges. New York: Feminist Press, 1973. Howells, William Dean, ed. The Great Modem American Stories. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1920. p. vii. Poetcrit/ 44