Analysis of Women’s Oppression in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Essay by marykatepaulinaCollege, UndergraduateB, December 2014

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Analysis of Women's Oppression in "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" could be described as the story, or rather, journey of a woman descending into madness, but what is the origin of this madness? What exactly causes this woman to collapse into a swallowing depth of mental instability? For this analytical paper, Gilman's underlying theme of women's oppression will be briefly explored and noted as the basis for our narrator's loss of self.

Within the first page of "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator is unnamed and anonymous, and remains that way throughout the story. The story is told as she writes in her diary which she keeps after her and her husband move into a temporary home for the summer. We know her husband's name, John, so the fact that she lacks self identity immediately brings out a sense of an imbalance of power between them, introducing the theme of women's oppression against our narrator.

The masculinity and power that John holds becomes clearly evident when the narrator describes how he, as a physician, diagnoses her with "nervous depression" and forbids her from trips, fresh air, exercise, work, and most importantly, writing (Gilman 648). John has complete control over her, forcing her to remain isolated in their home with no stimulation or creativity to help her through her illness.

Because of this isolation that John forces upon her, signs of obvious mental issues become evident as the narrator writes in her diary. The room which John places her is dressed with yellow wallpaper, which she describes as "repellent… revolting…" and "unclean..." (649). This causes her to suggest repapering the room, but John rejects her request immediately, demonstrating his own sense of superiority towards the narrator. However, this rejection will eventually...