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The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis

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English 1A03
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (1892)
- American writer
- writer of fiction and non-fiction
- feminist
- wrote novel called "Herland" (feminist
- this short story is about women's mental conditions
- story read as critical response about how a male dominated world treated these illnesses
-she suffered post partum depression after birth of her first child

Feminist * criticism and literature
We might read Gilman's fiction as an extension of her progressive political and social politics, particularly her involvement in women's rights
How does fiction enable us to reflect critically on gendered hierarchies of social power?
"The Yellow Wallpaper" responds to 19th- century medical practice - Provides alternative context for understanding "hysteria" and "madness" (mental illnesses ascribed to women) - Critique of the "rest cure" promoted in the late 19th century by Dr. Weir Mitchell (see p. 79)

- Hysteria actually originates from word hyster which means "wondering womb"

Analyzing figures: conflations
Character: Husband/doctor
"If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency- what is one to do ?" (75)
- Answer given at the end of the story: one might go mad.
- husband and doctor coming together
- at this point in the story the narrator is helpless
- we are shown that male authority comes in different forms (doctor and husband)
- women's own voice doesn't carry any weight
1st - person narration shows the absorption of patriarchal authority into the wife/patient's voice: "I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition" (76).
- The word "I" is in the story SO much
- even though John is only used as a subject in the passage he still has so much authority over her
- "sensitive" another term meaning hysteria
- she confirms that he is right and she accepts her mental state
- by allowing us to hear her before we hear anything else the story operates differently than the male dominated world she depicts (literary trick)

Setting: Nursery/ Mental Hospital/Prison
"It was nursery first and then a playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls" (76-77).
- she misreads the room
- it is not for children but it is for mental patients
- "rings and things in the wall" are restrains in the wall
- could also be a prison
- author wants us to recognize that these three places share things in common as well as who is set in these places
" He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction" (76)
- she was supposed to do nothing but rest
- she wasn't supposed to read, sing, or even think
- what kind of love is it that won't let her do absolutely anything

Analyzing figures: contracts
1. Images: Wallpaper vs. written/printed paper
"(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)" (75)
- dead paper gives her a sense of relief
- she is able to record her thoughts without other knowing
- she isn't allowed to do this though
- she says that her husband hates it when she writes
"I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of idea and rest me" (76)
- she says that it relieves her to write
- it is a form of therapy for her yet she still isn't allowed to do so
"This paper looks as if it knew what a vicious influence it had... I get positively angry with the impertinence of it... I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before" (76)
- the paper is almost like a cohabitant with her
- this type of paper is not dead it is coming to life
- it is antagonizing her
- first thing she notices about the paper is the eyes as if there is someone always watching her

The "woman in the paper"
"... there are so many of those creeping women... I wonder if they all came out of that wallpaper as I did?" (86)
How does the narrator's relationship to the woman in the wallpaper change?
By the story's conclusion, which "paper" constitutes the prison - the wallpaper, or the printed paper of the story?
How might we understand the narrator's seeming "escape" from the paper - has she triumphed over the patriarchal forces that have acted against her? Or only dramatized the effects of these forces?


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