Analyzing a literary work, I have always considered setting of the story to be primarily for a reader to picture the events more vividly. However, recently I have discovered that setting often plays an important role in the development of the plot and characters of the story. Besides time and place of a literary work, setting can include social, psychological or spiritual state of the characters. Therefore setting of the story is capable of not only creating a certain atmosphere, but also help characters change, come to a realization of something, or behave a certain way.
The setting of the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Yellow Wallpaper has a direct influence on the development of the plot and the main character of the story. The Yellow Wallpaper introduces a reader to a young lady, suffering from a major depression. She is prescribed a rest cure, so her husband, a physician himself, rents a house a colonial mansion, a hereditary estate for them to stay in during the summer. In the very first paragraph the author uses an element of gothic fiction, as the narrator declares that she feels something strange about the house.
She describes the house as gorgeous place, except for a spacious, full of light room on its upper floor. The room her husband insisted them to stay at. The narrator assumes it has been as nursery before as the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls. Its yellow, partially stripped off, wallpaper is the true object of the narrators frustration, disgust, and hatred. She describes its color as repellent, almost revolting: a smouldering unclear yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others She also claims that the wallpaper has a particular smell that follows her everywhere. It is like the color of the paper! A yellow smell. Another aspect of setting introduced in the story is the emotional state of the narrator. There are numerous clues given in the story that reveal that she is in the state of disharmony with herself and the role of a housewife she is forced to play by her husband and the society of that time.
She is unhappy with her marriage and her position in the family. It becomes clear when she says: John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage, with bitter irony in her tone. Throughout the story, young woman states her intentions, but does not act upon them because of her husband , and says, what can one do, showing that she has no power of authority to do what she believes is best for her. Sometimes she is unable to hold back her emotions about being discriminated.
She admits that she gets unreasonably angry with John sometimes and she blames it on her nervous condition. John tells her not to neglect proper self control. She is allowed to express herself neither in speech nor in her writing that could be an emotional relief for her. Im getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper. It dwells my mind so says the narrator towards the end of the story. That dull yellow wallpaper with ugly pattern that the young lady used to hate and fear eventually changed her life forever.
Having spent a lot of time in the room staring at the wall, she begins to see things and shapes behind the pattern. It appears to be the shape of a woman, or possibly many women creeping behind the wallpaper. At night in any kind of light, it becomes bars!… and the woman behind it is as plain as can beBy daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. The woman behind the bars is very symbolic in the story. It is the way the narrator finally sees herself and many other women, imprisoned by their husbands and prejudices of the society.
Looking through the wallpaper day after day, she finally comes to a realization that she has been tappet all these years, living according to somebody elses rules, following the decisions that other people have made for her. She feels an urge to get out, to set that woman free. So she stripes the wallpaper and imagines that she pulls and she shakes those bars that only she could see, helping the woman to get out. By stripping off the wallpaper the young lady, the protagonist of the Gilmans story, declares her freedom, finds strength to be herself.
Perhaps if not that pattern on the wall and the atmosphere of the room, she would have never found the reason of her insanity. She would not have realized that it is the inner-battle with doing what other tell her and what she wants to do that slowly drives her crazy. And even though there are still many women creeping off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in the wind, this one womans rescue is the beginning of a new era for all of them. Thanks to the yellow wallpaper the narrator is now able to stand for herself and say to her husband, and the rest of the society, Ive got out at last,you cant put me back!