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    Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’: Point of View Essay

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    Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ showcases the female narrator’s seclusion from society while attempting to come to terms with her rather horrifying dementia. It is a horrific tale of the hidden internal struggles of domestic abuse.

    It is that of rejecting the role Gilman believes women are forcibly pushed into isolation at the hands of patriarchal abuse. Her psychological pain is diagnosed as a sort of nervous disorder by none other than her own husband, who is a physician himself.

    To help speed her recovery, he moved himself and his wife to a summer mansion, remaining isolated from the outside community. As time passed briskly, the wallpaper encompassing their bedroom became the fixation of the narrator, causing her mental state to spiral downward even further and enveloping her with distraught.

    Upon reading the story for the first time, the reader can assume the story is nothing more than a reflection on mental illness, and can almost draw upon parallels to ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ by Edgar Allan Poe. However, upon a more scrutinized analysis of the text, this reflection of mental illness begins to fade.

    In addition, the mere fixation of the wallpaper itself goes beyond being just an obsession. What comes to mind instead is a message of rebellion that female readers can most certainly identify with. The story of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is less that of losing one’s sense of humanity under the grip of psychological depression.

    Gilman shows women’s societal limitations by utilizing the relationships between the characters, as well as giving an intense emphasis on the description of the wallpaper itself.

    This helps to bring the focus of feeling constricted in a marriage to the limelight of analysis. The unsteady alliance between the narrator and her physician husband, John, helps open a window for the reader to see these negative attributes in their relationship.

    As such, the narrator focuses on this imbalance both directly and indirectly in her journal entries. One such example is the fact that the narrator never directly states to John her thoughts, one of which is that she believes she is being treated unfairly living in isolation. Supposedly, this is for the sake of her treatment.

    However, she only records this as part of her journal entries, and never in verbal speech towards her husband. As an explanation for her silence, she states in her writing, “John is a physician, and — perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.’

    However, within the very next sentence she states, ‘But what is one to do?’, suggesting that she feels powerless inside to produce another solution. Here, Gilman overall suggests at some sort of bitter past between the two that has produced copious amounts of inner turmoil.

    Because the narrator chooses to keep her mental health subjugated to written passages instead of open conversations, it suggests the current state of her marriage to John is that of patriarchal abuse, both in the form of ridicule and silencing.

    As this mistreatment has built up around her for quite some time, she has treated it as being more habitual in nature, even to the point where she expects it to happen naturally. She believes she cannot rise above her feelings, nor even have good faith in John, because she is of the opposite sex.

    To her mind, her opinion is equally as fruitless, for the exact same reason as before; because he is a man and she is a woman. Additionally, his role as a physician brings a higher degree of knowledge to his mind as opposed to hers, making her feeling useless even more.

    As the story continues, Gilman reveals even more feelings of ill treatment through more examples, such as deep irony and highlighting certain aspects of terminology. Gilman uses slight elements of fiction to continuously highlight the torment of the narrator in her compacted feeling of abuse.

    Certain words and phrases make up these such elements to illustrate. A certain example is when John tried to describe his wife’s disturbed feelings, calling it a “temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency.’

    Quite noticeably in this description are the words temporary, slight, and tendency, which indicated John’s seeming lack of knowledge to classify what has become of his spouse. In a sense, he also appeared to refuse to acknowledge his wife had any sort of illness at all.

    In addition to his refusal of recognition of his own wife’s sickness, is his creative, albeit sickening treatment of her. This behavior is noticeable when he stated, ‘Bless her little heart; she shall be as sick as she pleases.’

    However, this sort of nursing, in spite of it’s intolerance, is not at all uncommon in the story. During any sort of attempt for the narrator to convey an important idea, John dismissed her almost immediately. He refers to her by almost childish pet names, such as ‘darling,’ or, ‘my little goose.’

    In connecting to the idea of John’s ignorance, a more concrete analysis of his pet names was needed. The word ‘little,’ for instance, clearly depicts the narrator’s heart, as said by John. But in terms of being ‘little,’ what comes to mind is a reflection of a small child, who has a body small enough to contain a small heart.

    This description connects to John’s following statement, ‘she shall be as sick as she pleases.’ Once more do the images of a small child enter the frame of analysis.

    To be as sick as one pleases closely resembles the proficiency a child has to flaunt an illness in order to avoid chores or homework.

    This scrutiny also goes hand in hand with John’s diagnosis of his wife’s condition as being that of ‘temporary nervous depression,’ as he was attempting to downplay the condition of her mental state, and manipulate her into thinking she is reacting disproportionately about her thoughts.

    Here, John was seen as a manipulator and an abuser of his spouse, not a carefree husband oblivious to any sort of danger his wife claims to feel. He was intent to making his wife feel far lesser of a human unable to feel free from his grip.

    The role of the yellow wallpaper was crucial to understanding the theme of the story. Gilman used the yellow wallpaper itself as a massive role in supporting this theme of patriarchal abuse.

    As a symbol, the wallpaper represented not one, but two things. For one, the wallpaper isn’t so much a symbol, but operates as a symbol of a symbol of John himself. Due to the narrator’s ever-growing insanity overtaking her mind, she came to the conclusion the paper holds a sort of ‘vicious influence’ over her character.

    One other way she drew her feelings toward the wallpaper and John, was by mentioning her happiness lies in her child, stating, “the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wallpaper.’

    Her statement pushed forward John’s little stronghold and poor care he had over his own newborn, as never is the child seen under his care, and according to the narrator, does not have to be occupied by the nursery or John himself.

    The story itself was published in 1892, a time when the task of child caring was relegated to women, and not men.

    Another parallel concerning the wallpaper lies on the very pattern that compromised it. It is a symbol of the narrator herself, the declining state of her marriage, and how greatly she was suffering as a result.

    As the narrator stared scrupulously and this pattern, she noticed something odd regarding it, stating, “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.”

    She proceeds to then say: “Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around very fast, and her crawling shakes all over.’

    Her purpose for looking hard into these intimate details on the wallpaper was to not just show her own struggle, but to speak on behalf of women experiencing similar troubles as well. She speaks up for various women in society who struggle to make an attempt to change the state of their marriage, or break free of it.

    Here, Gilman’s narrator represents a woman who is in a constant state of war, battling against the wallpaper and the fixation it holds over her. Additionally, she was fighting over the social codes of patriarchy.

    She battled without ever actually stating the form by which men created women into the caricature that they wanted, and that society stands back and lets such actions occur.

    ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ in the end, felt less like an actual story and more so a unique work of art. It is a fight for women seeking freedom against neglectful spousal abuse during the late 19th century.

    This is seen through the usage of symbolism lying in diction and the wallpaper itself. On one side, the story remains fixed on the narrator’s battles alone. However, using this same symbolism in both word choice and feeling of the wallpaper help to represent the hardships of not just one woman, but a nation of many.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’: Point of View Essay. (2023, Jan 14). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/gilmans-the-yellow-wallpaper-point-of-view-essay/

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