The Setting for Insanity in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Essay by ms24texUniversity, Bachelor's July 2004

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" illustrates that being excluded from the public and locked away in solitary confinement causes insanity. Gilman uses setting to convey this point throughout the story.

The unnamed woman in this story is told that she is suffering from a nervous disorder. Her husband takes her to a colonial mansion far away from her normal environment. He believes that taking her to a different environment will cure her of her illness. When she arrives at the mansion she thinks it is a beautiful place but feels that there is something eerie about it. She states "there is something strange about the house- I can feel it."(538). This statement implies that inside she knows that this so called treatment will eventually drive her insane. One of the significant settings is the mansion's "beautiful shaded lane" (540), which runs to a little private wharf.

In her mind, she envisions this as a path that leads her to long lost happiness. The word "shaded" leads one to believe that she is unclear if this long lost happiness is accessible.

The woman is forced to stay in an old nursery room in spite of her wishes. She longs to be in a more lively room down stairs. This is a room she describes as "opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings" (538). She longs to be there but her husband "would not hear of it" (538). According an essay by Jeannine Lawall, "John knew that his wife was loosing her mind and so chose this safe room over the prettier (and possibly healthier) rooms downstairs." He believes the less excitement she has, the better her recovery will be. Lawall also points out that "this nursery is...