“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The yellow wallpaper is a feminist story whose author is Charcollete Perkins Gilman. The story explores the basic issues that were faced by women in the society, their public perception of the mental illness which was connected to hysteria and feminism in the early 19th century in the United States. The theme of the story was a feminist which was due to protagonist struggle contrary to ""the male-centric thinking"" and society ""norms"". Concerning the feminist story is how depression which was suffered by women was being treated and dealt with by the society and the physicians. John who is the husband of the narrator is a physician and he tries to treat her wife from an anxious condition where the process of the healing leads to complete breakdown. In his treatment activities, john prescribed it as arest cure"" treatment which is given to protagonist. John tries to advise her wife to abstain from the physical activities and creative stimulation.

In this concern women like the narrator are treated as a subordinate role where they are not allowed to be involved in reading, writing and seeing their young ones. The only thing they are allowed to do is to sleep and breathe good air in the United States. The women were not in a position or had no ability to make their own decisions in the society. Charcollate Perkins Gilman has been involved in the story where he has been struggling against the women depression and the men dominance in the society which was experienced by the women's in an early 19th century. The setting of the story shows the inferiority of the women in the society (Gilman P.688). This paper will show how women suffered inferiority in the early 19th century in the United States.

At the beginning of the story, women are considered as inferior to men. John's wife who is referred to as protagonist is inferior to her husband john the physician. John as a physician dictates orders to his wife where he orders her not to be involved in any activity that involves decision making and the stimulation of mind with the argument that it will lead to mental problems.Women cannot read or write, they cannot work and the only thing they can do is to sleep and breathe the air in the state. The narrator is inferior to john where she has low self-esteem and has no confidence in herself. The relationship between women and their husband is not equal as it should be in the marriage sense. As per the 19th-century women were supposed to perform their responsibilities as the wives. Moreover, women were unable to adhere to that where it made society through John to take a move that will enhance women to behave like the wives by advocating for the cure of their depression or hysteria disease (Vidhya 260). Where women were said not to do anything involving physical activity and mental stimulation. The society treated women as inferior where they were treated as children relying on the guide of their husbands. They relied on their husbands the way children would rely on their parents depending on their thoughts and moves. Through such actions, the personality of the women was eroded making women inferior in the society. In the story setting, John represents society and narrator or protagonist represents women in the society.

Women in the 19th century were supposed to be submissive to their husbands (Stiles 280).They suffered from depression and anxiety which is characterized by hysteria. The narrator was supposed to be submissive to the john. She was, by all means, trying to satisfy her spouse and assuming her protagonist as a mother and wife. Women struggled to meet their husband inmost needs of the inventiveness. ""You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression-a slight hysterical tendency-what is one to do?""(Gilman P.687). The women are treated as inferior as narrator argues thatJohn sees himself as wise than her wife. She argues that she was not noticed when she said she was sick. John claimed she was suffering from the hysteria and she had to avoid activities that would involve more creativity and decision making among the women.

When women started rebelling against their husbands like in case of the john and narrator in the yellow paper story, the physicians like John were assuming that women were sick. Where were said to be suffering from the mental illness and anxiety a disease referred to as hysteria. Hysteria was characterized by the anxiety and depression and was associated with females in the society. Women infected by the madness were associated with the emotional symptoms including; emotional dependency, seductive behaviors, intolerance depressions, and irritability. The physicians like John had a belief that women were weak than men and would not handle high amounts of the mental and physical activity. Physicians who were the men and had dominance were opposed to women receiving an education where they believed that education will adversely and permanently affect the health of the women. The hysteria diseases was a kind of making women inferior so that they may continue being submissive to men in the society (Matthews 73). The setting of the society in the United States in the early 19th century portrayed men as superior as compared to the women. Men dominated everything in the society.

Lastly, according to the author, women in the America in the early 19th century were being forced to completely depend on the men. In that sense, everything they owned belonged to men which included; their children, possessions, and earnings. This led to lowering of the women status in the society. The women were considered different from the men considering their different purposes they had in the society. Women were treated as mothers and homemakers whereas men were treated as intellectuals who were involved in working and they depended on the women to maintain their comfort and changing aspects of the family and homes. Women in the United States were held by religious values which portrayed them as inferior. They were said to have religious virtues of being submissive, piety and domesticity in nature (Breuer 255) .These virtues made men in the society to be dominant where women were inferior in the society.

To conclude, the setting of the storythe yellow paper and the society in the America in early 19th century, portrayed woman as inferior. Women were said to be suffering from the mental illness which was associated only with the women. After the physician diagnosis, they were said to be suffering from the hysteria. In order for women to avoid that mental illness, they were said not to be involved in the activities involving decision making and creativity in the society. They were not allowed to learn and make their own decision as they depended totally on men. Religious values of being submissive and domesticity which made women remain inferior in the society.


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  2. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web.
  3. Gilman, Charlotte P.? The Yellow Wallpaper. London: Virago, 1973. Print.
  4. Matthews, Jean.The Rise of the New Woman. The Rise of the New Woman: The Women's Movement in America, 1875“1930. Ed. Ivan R. Dee. pp. 72-74. Print.
  5. Stiles, Anne.The Rest Cure, 1873-1925. Branch: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth- Century History.
  6. Vidhya, S.Hysteria: Meaning, Causes and Symptoms. Home-cure.net, 6. Sept. 2011. Web. 28. Oct. 2017.
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"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. (2018, Dec 28). Retrieved June 21, 2024 , from

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