The Yellow Wallpaper: Male Oppression of Women in Society
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is a commentary on the male oppression of women in a patriarchal society. However, the story itself presents an interesting look at one woman's struggle to deal with both physical and mental confinement. This theme is particularly thought-provoking when read in today's context where individual freedom is one of our most cherished rights. This analysis will focus on two primary issues: 1) the many vivid images Gilman uses to illustrate the physical and symbolic confinement the narrator endures during her illness; and 2) the overall effect of, and her reaction to, this confinement.
The Yellow Wallpaper begins with the narrator's description of the physically confining elements surrounding her. The story is cast in an isolated hereditary estate, set back from the road and located three miles from town. The property boasts protective hedges that surround the garden, walls that surround the estate, and locked gates which guarantee seclusion. Even the connecting garden represents confinement, with box-bordered paths and grape- covered arbors. This isolation motif continues within the mansion itself. Although she preferred the downstairs room with roses all over the windows that opened on the piazza, the narrator finds herself relegated to an out of the way dungeon-like nursery on the second floor, appropriately equipped with "rings and things" in the walls. Windows in each direction provide glimpses of the garden, arbors, bushes, and trees. The bay is visible, as is a private wharf that adjoins the estate. These views reinforce isolationism; they can be seen from the room, but not touched or experienced. There is a gate at the head of the stairs, presumably to keep the children contained in their play area. Additionally, the bed is immovable as it has been nailed to the floor. It is here that the narrator secretly describes her slow decent into...
Cited: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." English 2307. Comp. Jane
Bell. n.p., c.1996. 3-7.
Kennard, Jean. "Convention Coverage or How to Read Your Own Life."
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Woman and Her Work. Ed. Sheryl Meyering.
Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989. 75-94.
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