The Yellow Wallpaper and Frye's Oppression

Essay by ejeff80University, Bachelor'sA+, May 2004

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When reading Frye's assessment and definition of oppression it almost seems as though Frye could have been referring to, or influenced by, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story of a 19th century woman's experience with oppression. Frye's essay points to the fact that oppression does not occur simply when one outside force is causing a single person misery. Oppression exist when one is "surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers" (Frye 29) "The experience of oppressed people is that the living of ones life is confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restrict or penalize motion in any direction." (Frye 28) Our narrator in Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" was physically, socially, and mentally restrained by her husband, friends, and society.

She was trapped in her own "bird cage" of systematically related barriers which manifested itself metaphorically and literally in the form of four walls of yellow wallpaper.

The story begins with a nameless character, writing in her journal, who believes herself to have fallen ill. Throughout the story the character remains nameless. This is significant because the author is showing the reader that this character is a universal woman whose restraints are not unique to her individual situation. "The 'inhabitant' of the 'cage' is not an individual but a group, all those of a certain category. If an individual is oppressed, it is in virtue of being a member of a group or category of people that is systematically reduced, molded immobilized. Thus, to recognize a person as oppressed, one has to see the individual as belonging to a group of a certain sort."(Frye 31) She is a woman,