The Yellow Wallpaper

Better Essays
Jacqueline Pederson
English 101
Professor Dreiling
January 21, 2015
Unjustly Repressed. Charlotte Gilman was an ingenious woman. On the surface, her most renowned work, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” appears to be a simple journal of a women struggling with mental illness. Throughout the story, her husband, whom is also her physician, coins her state as nothing more than a mere nervous disorder. He treats her with the “rest cure.” To begin her treatment, the couple temporarily moves to an isolated summer home, and as the days pass, the wallpaper surrounding their room becomes the item for which the narrator’s distraught mind becomes fixated. On the surface, this interpretation of the wallpaper seems feasible, due to the fact that Gilman herself suffered from a similar scenario, however, it is completely wrong. The yellow wallpaper holds a much deeper meaning than just that of a fixation. In actuality, the wallpaper is intended to be a representation of the cast that all women are expected to fit. Therefore, the insanity that consumes the narrator cannot be linked to her husband’s diagnosis of a nervous disorder. The cause of narrator’s decent into madness actually lies within her inability to conform to thus cast. Ultimately, through the use of the characters relationships and detailed descriptions off the wallpaper, Gilman reveals the prevalent theme; the restrictions and constraints placed upon women by society. Gilman utilizes the relationship between the narrator and her husband, John, to create a window, a window into which the readers observe the negative world women faced during that era. Within the journal entries, this un-balanced relationship is stated directly and indirectly. The narrator, only because she feels safe doing so, directly writes what cannot be said to her husband. For instance, she believes she is being mistreated for her mental condition; however, her only mention of it is in her writing. The reasoning behind her not speaking out about



Cited: Gallulo, Lisa. "99.01.07: Gothic and the Female Voice: Examining Charlotte Perkins Gilman 's "The Yellow Wallpaper"" 99.01.07: Gothic and the Female Voice: Examining Charlotte Perkins Gilman 's "The Yellow Wallpaper" Yale University, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2015. "Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 1860-1935. The Yellow Wallpaper." Feminist Press. Charlottesville: Electronic Text Center, U of Virginia Library, 1997. Rpt. of "The Yellow Wallpaper." The Yellow Wallpaper (1899): n. pag. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. Hedges, Elaine. "Afterword to "The Yellow Wallpaper"," Golden, Catherine, ed. The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on "The Yellow Wallpaper". (NY: Feminist Press, 1991), 130. Wagner-Martin, Linda. "Gilman 's The Yellow Wallpaper: A Centenary." In Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Woman and Her Work [sub ser, enotes]. With each passing decade the relevance of this play only increases. As America continues to thrive on superficial values and behaviors, we witness more characters like Willy than Miller did in the late 1940 's. In America, the dream has always been and will continue to be achieving success. However the idea of success is skewed. Success is based on materialistic things. Unfortunately this does not always result in happiness. For instance, in Relateable Willy’s case, he failed and struggled greatly in life because what he was trying to obtain was not what he should have been striving for in the first place. In the end materialistic things are never enough, the more things you have doesn’t correlate to how happy and satisfied you are in life. I can relate to this absurd view of success because I have witnessed it through many people and even myself. I am guilty, as is everyone, to giving into society’s views and wanting things that I do not need. This play was one of the realest plays i 've read since high school because it has a deep message related to the way Americans or anyone can achieve success. Willy 's character in "Death of a salesman" believes in a dream (American dream) that he believes can only be accomplished through superficial personality and a type of fame among connections and people. From what i see in Willy 's character, he was really determined in achieving success as a salesman but his mentality was not the correct kind to have for achieving success. His religious belief about superficial fame/connections/reputation slowly lead him to slight insanity/ depression to the point were he tried to kill himself. Similar to self-esteem for teenagers in school, one 's effort to impress others or be accepted can always be a factor for depression and suicidal thoughts. I 've always believed success and determination starts from personal initiative and individual focus.  Just imagine if Willy had the same feeling and strive for success but without the dependence on reputation and recognition from others, he would have made it big in my opinion. One must work hard, disregard the impression of others, and focus on one 's personal goals and thoughts of success to actually achieve them. I believe Willy worked hard traveling long distances for little pay but he should have taken the initiative to look for success somewhere else if his current job wasn 't bringing him any closer to it. As a result from his influenced mentality, his household suffered and so did the people around him as they watched him lose his mind. His mistaken mentality consequentially resulted in him influencing his children to live with the wrong mentality for success, like Biff for example. Biff was the first to realize his dad was on the wrong path and mental gear for success as he noticed his own character was on the same road as his dad. My point is, Willy had the wrong mentality for success just like many people in America today. A quote i 've heard before by an anonymous author states, "Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it." Success is worked hard for, not handed to you for your reputation, fame, personality, or pretty face. What is truth? We create our own truth about everything. Sometimes the truth is not even close to what others believe. Our truths can be influenced by many outside sources. Anything can influence what you believe. One example brought up in chapter 3 is how in our childhood we believe everything that our parents tell us even if it is a completely ridiculous answer. “Our parents answered them. We accepted those answers and made them the foundation of our belief system, no matter how elaborate it would become in adulthood.”(pg.33) I agree with this quote because it is true that as children we believe anything our parents say to us. Then again, even though we believe everything our parent’s say, as we start to grow older we leave behind many of those beliefs because we realize that what our parents say is not always true. That point is also brought up in chapter 3. “Relativists could, of course, claim that we leave all those early influences behind when we reach adulthood…” I do agree with that quote as well. For example Santa Clause and the Easter bunny, as we grow older, we learn that those were not truths. What is truth? The truth is hard to define. For some people, they believe something is true because of past experiences, however those experience only pertain to them, so their truth is different. A lot of the time what we believe to be true only agrees with our personal views and opinions. In government I learned that when storing information and facts we tend to only store the information that agrees with us and diregaurd the rest. Our parents play a huge role in what we these views and opinions are. For example in Chapter three it states,“Our parents answered them. We accepted those answers and made them the foundation of our belief system, no matter how elaborate it would become in adulthood.”(pg.33) For most people this is very accurate. An actual example of this would be that the majority of offspring vote for the same political party as their parents did. However , like I said this is not true for all people. As one ages many of these views tend to be changed and challenged. This is also described in chapter three when is states . “Relativists could, of course, claim that we leave all those early influences behind when we reach adulthood…” This is especially true today. With each generation views are changing. For instance the world my parents and grandparents grew up in was much more conservative. Being homosexual was not commonly accepted but today the views have changed. My generation is a lot more accepting to homosexuality among other things. So to conclude I believe that our experiences, childhood, and time period we grow up in affect what we hold to be true.

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