Women and Wallpaper: The role of women in "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkin Gilman

Essay by sunny09College, UndergraduateA+, October 2006

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a riveting story of a dejected woman locked away due to the instability of her mind. Our unnamed protagonist is a passionate writer and it is only through her writing that we are able to follow her on a journey where she becomes a victim to those around her including herself. Her writing also reveals the gradual development of her madness. The significance of the story is tremendous as it uses insanity to delve into the underlying issues of "a woman's place" and feminism, or the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of sexual equality, in the 19th century.

The story begins with the woman telling of her depression and both her husband and brother, who happen to be medical practitioners, dismissing her claims. She voices this when she writes in her journal, "[y]ou see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do?" Her claims are dismissed by the most important men in her life, and she feels helpless.

She is told, by these men, how her own body is feeling. We have to understand that in this time and era, she is living in a patriarchal society. The men, as seen, controls much of what is going on, and in our protagonist's position even tries to control the state of her health. She, as all women of that era, were discouraged from venturing out of their domain, so she feels as though she must accept it when they put no value to her opinion. She gives further evidence of this when she speaks of her husband. "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage." This sentence illustrates the dominant-submissive relationship not only between our narrator and her husband, John,