Charlotte Perkins Gilman once said “There is no female mind. The brain is not an organ of sex. Might as well speak of a female liver.” In short story The Yellow Wallpaper written in 1982 by Gilman from the first person perspective of an unnamed woman who is suffering from postpartum depression. The style of writing is gothic because the story is about dread, horror, the supernatural, and suspense. The woman and her husband, a physician, stay at a summer house, and he has decided that she must have a rest cure because she is suffering from a nervous disorder. In the The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman shows through characterization an unequal relationship between a man and woman in which the woman is infantilized.
The story of The Yellow Wallpaper reflects the period where men dominated women. In the beginning of story Gilman shows issues that deal with gender roles as well as male dominance. If a physician of high standing, and ones own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression what is one to do? My brother is also a physician and also of high standing and he says the same thing (Gilman, 519). This quote from the narrator shows how high standard careers like physicians/doctors were held by men and not women. The role of women in society shown as occupation of housewife when Johns sister entrance. The woman writes, There comes Johns sister.
Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing. She is a perfectionist and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which makes me sick! (Gilman, 522). This statement shows a typical representative of woman and who is happy with her life as it is. During the 19th century women had not been allowed to speak their own minds because they had to follow or do what their husband wants. The marriages had been primarily based on the husbands perspective. According to article Monumental Feminism and Literature’s Ancestral House: Another Look at ‘the Yellow Wallpaper’ by Janice Haney-Peritz said that The Yellow Wallpaper this story is disturbing, feminists such as Elaine Hedges claim that this is one of the rare pieces of literature we have by a nineteenth- century woman which directly confronts the sexual politics of the male-female, husband-wife relationship (Haney-Peritz, 114). This evidence shows Gilman used the narrator husband as a representative of society and to reveal how mans dominance over woman though characterization.
The narrator is under her husbands control, where the man can say or do anything and women have to listen. For example, the narrator uses verbal irony in reference to her husband: John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage (Gilman, 519). Gilman is trying to show that their marriage is unequal and the fact that her husband laughs at the narrator shows he doesnt respect her feelings. Furthermore, The Yellow Wallpaper presents male dominance where the narrator must deal with isolation and lack of control. When the narrator is diagnosed with depression by her husband he prescribes the rest cure. His decision about the rest cure shows how he dominates and controls his wifes life. The process of rest cure keeps the narrator isolated, from her work, herself, and from outside world interaction. She is treated like infant where the narrator husband tries to oppress her by refusing her thoughts.
After spending time in her room, she started to dislike the yellow wallpaper and requested her husband to change since she doesnt like its had unusual pattern. Her husband replied, nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to that fancies. (Shumaker, 591). Her husband who reject her requested by saying, you are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better, I feel better about you (Shumaker, 591). This demonstrates that he is not paying attention to his wife emotional needs. The story shows the patriarchal society of the time and her husband doesnt want to take order from his wife. This is evident through the masculine husband who tries to oppress his wife and shatter her ability of thinking. The color yellow is a symbol which often associated with sickness or weakness and this had been proven true when the narrator gets sick instated of getting well from rest cure.
Male domination had been changed in form of pressure on the narrator to get well.
In The Yellow Wallpaper the women feel pressure to get well soon. John, her husband takes her to a summer house. John says if I dont pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall(Gilman, 523). The description of Weir Mitchell uses imagery to create he is a physician of neurasthenia which the woman need for rest cure. If the woman need to get well soon otherwise she will be send to doctor. Her husband use emotional pressure to her My darling,” said he, “I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so? (Gilman, 525) ” This shows how her husband treat her like she is mentally ill. Also, the pressure from her husband shows male domination because of the forces and being control means she have get well soon. Controlling the narrator is another form male domination because her husband was making decisions for her which shows she had no freedom.
In The Yellow Wallpaper the husband control her by not let her write and she felt isolated because she is locked into room. The husband hate when she write a single word. There comes John, and I must put this away,–he hates to have me write a word(Gilman, 520). What this quote is trying to say that John her husband did not want her to write and control her life like when she need take rest. Also by not letting her do a thing she likes. This is a literary technique of irony because writing make the women feels happy but her husband john making her being more sick. Because of control make her feels isolation I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad (Gilman, 519). This shows she is cut off and isolated from the rest of the society. His domination make the narrator to believes she is failure. She cannot be a perfect wife or mother because she need to be rest.
Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way! I meant to be such a help to John, such comparative burden already( Gilman, 521). She explains because of her nervousness she can not do her duty to the family. The author she is an allusion because she is thinking in her mind without mentioning. She failed how she want to live her life Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be.You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was (Gilman, 526). This shows how she has truly lost her sanity and make her feel like a failure. The narrator was living in a room like nursery and which seems to infantilize her during rest cure treatment.
The narrator had been treated like a child by her husband throughout the story. She remains in a room locked staring at the wallpapers and the ceiling. Her husband refers to her as his little goose which refers to a dumb animal and to shows the husband thinks she is not enough intelligence. This is shown in the line where The he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished , and have it Whitewashed into the bargain (Gilman, 521). The key phrase in the quote is little goose, the husband treats his wife like a child and speaks to her as such. Also, he refers to her as a little girl, and with an huge he says things like,Bless her little heart! (Gilman, 525). At one point, when the narrator breaks down crying in front of her husband, he gathered her up in his arms, just carried her up the stairs and laid her on the bed to read to her until it tired her head (Gilman, 524). Author Gilman present an image of a father gathering up his child and comfort them into sleep.
Throughout the story her husband constantly reminding her, He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well. He says no one but me can help myself out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me” ( Gilman, 524). This quote clearly shows her state of mind is dependent on her husband because she believes that it is up to her to get well soon. Moreover, the narrator believes her room was once a nursery, It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children (Gilman, 520). This all evidence shows he degrades his wife by using terms that typically use to speak to little children. Gilman clearly demonstrates she uses these details to depict how the narrator live in confinement.
Also, to shows how oppressed women were during this specific time period from men perspective. One of the symbolism the author uses is barred windows to show emotional, psychological, and social isolation from outside world where men dominated women life. Furthermore, mens expectations of women were infantilizing to the point of insanity instead of treating the narrator as an adult might be more beneficial in terms of getting well. In second of the story the author chose Independence Day to show the narrators lack of freedom,Well, the Fourth of July is over! (Gilman, 522). This quote reveal that the celebration of freedom this day represents the narrator no longer is free. By the end, the narrator is hopelessly insane and convinced that there are many creeping women around and that she has come out of the wallpaper. She feels that she is the trapped woman, creeps around aimlessly in the room, mark the wallpaper as she goes.
When the husband breaks into the room and sees the full horror of the situation, he faints in the doorway, so that the narrator has to creep over him every time (Gilman, 530). This scene is represent now she is free from her husband controlled and laying on floor shows now there are no male dominator.
In Conclusion, the narrator of the story The Yellow Wallpaper the author Charlotte Perkins Gilman represents woman at those times because she cannot express herself and also cannot do what she wants to and treated inferior to men. The infantilization of the narrator as well as the rest cure treatment of her nervous disorder, is what I believe leads to her obsession with the yellow wallpaper essentially lead to losing her mind in the process. Furthermore, Gilman wants to give a message to audience that rest cure is a harmful treatment which can lead to be insane. The Yellow Wallpaper brings numerous social issues to light and helping women to free themselves from unhappy marriage. Finally, the narrator break free from the oppressive society and male dominated world.
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