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The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Analysis

Although most people will find The Yellow Wallpaper as simply an account of a woman that sunk into deep depression, it is possible to extricate dual interpretations from this story. There is one meaning that is describing that the author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman can be related to the female in the story; this is achieved by comparing the authors life and her characters life piece by piece. One might find that The Yellow Wallpaper is very similar to events that actually took place in the authors life.

On the other hand, the more popular theory of the two states that many individuals examine this story from a feminist point of view. By this, I mean, they read and translate this story with a critical perspective, a view that generalizes men as chauvinistic and domineering. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Frederick Beecher Perkins, a librarian and writer, and Mary (Westcott) Perkins. Among her father’s forebears was the novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, his aunt.

Perkins abandoned his wife after their infant died in 1866 – Mary Perkins lived with her children on the brink of poverty and was often forced to move from relative to relative or to other temporary lodgings. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an avid reader and largely self-educated. She studied two years at Rhode Island School of Design (1878-80) and then earned her living designing greetings cards. In 1884 she married Charles Walter Stetson, an aspiring artist. After the birth of their daughter Katharine, she was beset by depression, and began treatment with Dr.

Silas Weir Mitchell in 1886. His recommendations, ‘live as domestic a life as possible’ and ‘never touch a pen, brush or pencil as long as you live’ Gilman later satirized this in her autobiography, and used the discussions in her most renowned short story, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, which first appeared in New England Magazine (1892). The narrator is a young mother suffering from a temporary nervous depression. John, her husband, is a physician, who doesn’t believe in supernatural things. He has ordered her to ‘rest’ in the bedroom of their rented house. Knight 1) Many critics mention that the authors life has always been a troubled one; she had troubled and loveless relationships with her mother, father and her daughter. These relationships are central to the life of Charlotte Gilman yet only peripherally relate to the incident in her life that sparked one of the greatest pieces of feminist literature ever written. (Gilbert 2) This desolateness felt by Gilman was only one of the factors of her inspiration to writing The Yellow Wallpaper.

There are a few that believe that Charlottes dubious relationships can be seen when she caught Jennie reading her paper, her sister acts angry, as if she had been caught stealing, this could insinuate a lack of mistrust in the authors own family. It can also be noted that Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who suggested the idea of rest treatment, incited some critics to say The real purpose of the story was to reach Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, and convince him of the error of his ways. (Dock, 89) This doctor is also mentioned in the story; his character is Johns brother.

Extrapolating on the fact that Charlotte Gilman already had many early influences from high-standing women who fought for women suffrage and political equality, we can assume that The Yellow Wallpaper is feminist text. Her great-aunt was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the novelist who wrote Uncle Toms Cabin, she may have had an influence over Charlotte. It is a feminist text, it tells of a story about a womans struggles against male-centric thinking and societal norms. The text may be ambiguous to the reader who is nfamiliar with Gilmans politics and personal biography, yet, it impresses any reader who is able to analyze how futile the treatment of the main character was, and understand the deeper meaning behind the story. It illustrates how established protocols of behavior could have devastating effects on the women of Gilmans time, regardless of the intentions of the purveyor. By late 20th century standards, the behavior of John, the husband, seems eerily inappropriate and restrictive, but was considered quite normal in the 19th century. (Lauter vol.

II) This text is sprinkled with metaphors, some obvious, more are complex, they are numerous throughout the story, So I take phosphates or phosphiteswhichever it is Bill Ames noted this as showing that women were overlooked in education. Moreover, she demonstrates a normalcy of women that are non-technicalthey should not have to worry about phosphates, which are in the scientific realm assigned to men. (Ames 1) This is an interesting point, in which we can tell that the author is quite subtle in expressing her attitudes about society.

Gilman goes out of her way to describe the garden of the house as delicious, this, perhaps, is an allusion to a womens place in the kitchen. (Thomas 1) It is the wallpaper though, that is the focal-point of the entire story, and in it holds copious amounts of metaphors for the oppression of women. The author is very subtle in giving the clues about the wallpaper; she uses a slow and steady pace to release tidbits of metaphor that eventually may or may not clue the reader into thinking that the wallpaper is in fact a symbol of male authority.

There is the papers stench, which subtly pervades the whole house, this perhaps to give a sense of pervasive and inescapable injustice, much like the accepted social rules at the time which governed Gilmans world. The papers pattern, which slowly develops from bulbous eyes to a woman shaking bars. It contains many vague images, but acts as a paranoid collection of domination. Gilman gives the reader a feeling that the wallpaper is ever-present and lurking, like some say the subtle rejections she faced as a female writer.

The paper stains people and things; this could possibly mean the everlasting habit of society to pass its sense of protocol from person to person, father to son. A constantly changing light on the wallpaper show many different mutating formssymbols of the many ways male chauvinism has spread throughout the society. Each one can be read as a different facet of a male-centric society and its effect on women. (Ames 1) The bulbous eyes and strangled heads may symbolize other womens careers that have been choked, in that case the authors tearing down of the wallpaper and creeping over her husband symbolizes her triumph.

The images are so numerous that it is not possible to know precisely what Gilman meant for each oneperhaps she was unsure herselfbut a reader can personalize them all and gain a sense of them from the context Gilman places around the text. Society itself is described through the wallpaper, this, perhaps is the most significant detail to be examined. The papers pattern seems to change with different lighting; particular traits can be seen under certain conditions and change over time. This can be directly related to how society assigns roles for both sexes.

Note that as the light, referring to the time period, changes, so does the patterns that can be seen on the wall, meaning the protocols in society assigned to men and women changes. The metaphors, images and basic plot of this story leave the reader with a female who realized societys role placed upon her, and then determinedly broke out in triumph over an oppressive pair of male characters. It exposes ugly and unnoticed social conventions that are second-nature to its male characters.

The story promotes Gilmans agenda for change, and it illustrates a womans struggle to find equal opportunity in society. Although this may seem a powerful enough interpretation of this story, there are two sides to every story. As I have explained earlier, this story may just have been a straightforward and simple recounting of the severe effects of depression on the psychological and physical levels. Either way, this text provides inspiration to readers at many levels.

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