"The Yellow Wallpaper"

Essay by naj20 March 2009

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"The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is an account of a repressed woman in the late eighteen hundreds. This story allows the reader to confront the issues that plagued nineteenth century society in which women suffered because of their mental weaknesses. It is this mental weakness which ultimately leads to her downfall.

The narrator is afflicted with temporary nervous depression. She makes it evident that this affliction is due to her repression by her husband, John. He has total control over her thoughts and feelings, her health, and over her life. He does not take her seriously and laughs at her but, in this society, "one expects that". (Gilman 1) He controls every aspect of her life. He forces her to stay in a room which she despises, and consequently, drives her insane. Gilman builds up the story to convey her feelings of the repercussions a woman faces in total supervision and domination by a man.

She follows her husband's counsel of total bed rest, but deep within her, she knows this will be her destruction. However, as characteristic of a woman of this time period, she obediently accommodates the demands of the man. This leaves her no choice, but to subject herself to the anguish of being totally alone in a room with ghastly yellow wallpaper.

She stares at the wallpaper all day and all night because of her insomnia, and she ultimately determines that "Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern." (Gilman 11) In time, the image appears clearer to the narrator. The wallpaper becomes more understandable to her, and she finally determines, "...and worst of...