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Palacios 1 Bryan Palacios Professor Jacobs ENC 1102 April 16th, 2014

The Yellow Wallpaper

In the 19th century, women were faced with many obstacles due to gender roles society viewed them as. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was a feminist author who shared her experiences she endured as a women in her many short stories like The Yellow Wallpaper. In Charlotte Perkins Gilmans, The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is suffering from postpartum depression and is ignored by her concerns and needs because she is a woman. Her doctor who diagnoses her and tells her she needs rest is her husband. Jane (narrator), starts to become obsessed with the yellow wallpaper surrounding the room. Throughout the story her wishes and suggestions are ignored by her husbands male dominancy. In the end she becomes completely insane due to isolation and overcomes her husbands rule on her by stepping over him and metaphorically changing the gender roles. Gilman portrays the struggle and oppression women endure in society through theme, symbolism, and biographical criticism. The theme of the story is, the role of women and how this view under minds their voice and individuality. During the late 1800s, a womens role in society was to stay home, take care of the children, and do house chores. Their place in a marriage was to always agree with their spouse and had no freedom of voice. Also women were under minded and thought as less intelligent than men. This leads to the theme of the story, the role of women. Women during this

Palacios 2 time, were repressed from speaking their mind and to express their individuality. In The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane wants to read and write while recovering, but her husband ignores her decision and tells her she needs more rest. Another example of oppression is, when Jane would like to go see relatives, she is denied. Jane saw this as a helpful factor to overcome her depression; with the support of her loved ones. During this time, women listened to their spouse no matter the subject because it was their role in society. Also, freedom plays a huge factor. As an example, in the twentieth century literary criticism source, the author states, She is held captive, away from her friends, and forced to give up her preferred activities (Thomas, Schoenberg, and Trudeau). In addition to the theme, Janes sister in law, Jennie represents the 19th century view on the role of women. Which illustrates the perfect wife, who is the housekeeper and takes care of the children. In the story, Jennie is somewhat taking over Janes role in the relationship; she takes care of Janes newborn baby and tends to her needs. Also, a wifes role is to be charming and compliant with their husband, in the story John begins to treat Jane as a child and not as a wife. As an example, when Jane asks to stay in a room downstairs, John disagrees and calls her a blessed little goose (Gilman 357). In this case her role as a women is being diminished slowly. The symbolism displayed in The Yellow Wallpaper, relates to women in society in many different ways. For example, the barred windows in the room represent, womens ideals and views shut out in a male dominant society, another way it can be viewed is, by displaying a womens creativity or intellect she can use to help out society, instead it is locked in by the barred windows. Also, in short stories for students, the author states, The bed is said by some critics to represent repressed female sexuality (Wilson). This symbol shows womens sexuality being hidden from society. Another symbol would be the wallpaper itself, signifying the

Palacios 3 narrators prison in which she sees a woman trapped in it as well. Melissa Barth, from the source Masterplots, states, By freeing the woman from behind the wallpaper, Jane succeeds in freeing herself (Barth). This backs up the assertion of the wallpaper symbolizing a prison. Another symbolism is, the realism of women in a relationship. In Short Stories for students, the author states, The Yellow wallpaper examines the economic and social dependence of women and men (Wilson). The narrator is shown to be dependent on her husband; she relies on his input to go about her life. For example, she listens to him and cannot make her own decisions like a child. Also in the story, Jane is stepping over her husbands body each time she makes a circle around the room; this symbolizes women overcoming male dominancy in society. It also symbolizes the genders roles changing and shows women being freed from their cages and can now express their individuality in society. In this case, Jane has completely become insane and is far from expressing anything rational. In order to analyze the story, the reader must know some knowledge about the authors biography. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3rd, 1860; her father abandoned her family when she was an infant. This led to Gilman living with her relatives, including the famous author, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Also Gilmans sisters were feminist activists, which led her to believe in equality. Later on Gilman ended up getting married and had a child, but soon after she began to show symptoms of depression. Her doctor suggested she needed bed rest in order to overcome her depression. She ended up worse than she was from the start. According to David Galens, This provided Gilman with the background for her first published novella, The Yellow Wallpaper(Galens). Gilman admitted that her work on the story was to get back at her doctor for his maltreatment. Although her work in The Yellow Wallpaper, was not deliberately related to

Palacios 4 feminist activism, she wrote two other books supporting the feminist activist cause. On August 17th, 1935, Gilman committed suicide because she did not want to die by the incurable breast cancer she was diagnosed with a few years earlier. Through biographical criticism, the author relates to Jane in the story. Gilman was in the same situation after her doctor informed her to take rest for her diagnoses, as in the story, she got worse. Through this criticism, Gilman expresses her own emotions into the character Jane. She also uses her personal experiences as a base to elaborate on the misdiagnoses and the outcome that may cultivate in the long run. One source states, Gilmans main purpose in writing her story was to change perceptions of treatment by highlighting its cruelty (Thomas, Schoenberg, and Lawrence). This helps support the assertion on why she wrote the story. Gilman endured the same oppression women went through in the late 19th century, she wrote The Yellow wallpaper to show how wrong her male doctor was. In time, the story became known as a stepping-stone for female activists, to not give into what society tells them to do. In the end, Gilman portrays the struggle and oppression women endure in society through theme, symbolism, and biographical criticism. She displays her own experiences and emotions to depict the story. Biographical criticism can be used to analyze this. Though theme, Gilman portrays the miss diagnoses women receive for treatment due to their status in society. Also she uses symbolism to elaborate on womens suffrage. In this day and age the role of women has drastically changed since the 19th century.

Palacios 5 Work Cited

Barth, Melissa E. The Yellow Wallpaper. Masterplots: Short Story Series, Revised Edition (2004): 1-2. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 2 Apr. 2014. Booth, Alison and Kelly J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to: Literature. 10th edition. New York: Norton, 2010. Print. Moss Joyce and G. Wilson "Works Vol. 2: Civil Wars to Frontier Societies (1800-1880s). Detroit: Gale, 1997. 422-428. Gale Virtual Reference Library.The Yellow Wallpaper." Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Web. 15 Apr. 2014. Thomas Ed, J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau "The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 201. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2008. 266-376. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. . 1 April 2014 "The Yellow Wallpaper." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 277-293. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.

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