The following sample essay on “Yellow Wallpaper” a Story About Women in Society talks about women’s right and gender equality in society.
The feminist movement, considered as another historical event besides the extinction of slavery, played an important role in causing the acute awareness of women’s rights and promoting gender equality in society during the last century. While many writers of this time tried to tackle this social issue.
“The Yellow Wallpaper”, a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is worth being honored as one of the finest and more aware contribution to the women’s movement.
In her voice and the portrayal of the main character Jane, Perkins Gilman accomplished a rare feat: the inclusion of the women as a protagonist in a patriarchal world. In this story, the writer uses the main character, “I”, a woman with severe mental depression who demonstrates the oppression that women at the time were exposed to and expresses the outcry that gender equality needed (and needs) to be eliminated entirely.
The story is a tale of a woman progressing from the state of normality to depression to a state of insanity (due to being denied her creative output of writing), however, the underlying theme of the story expresses the average American woman’s desire to act according to her will in the highly patriarchal society of the 19th Century. Throughout the story, Gilman specifically gave the name of the husband: John, however, when she comes down to the narrator, the most important character in the story, she uses “I” or “myself” (she only uses the narrator’s real name, Jane, once).
This different treatment seems trivial, but it successfully sent an important message to the readers: during that time, women were so insignificant that even their names can be ignored.
This view can also be taken in the other direction; Perkins Gilman may have used the first person singular in order for the female reader to more quickly take on the narrator’s persona so that her events became a part of the reader’s personal history. Thus, each woman who reads “The Yellow Wallpaper” knows the oppression of being denied important aspects of the self; in this case, writing. For, it is only when Jane is denied being allowed to write that she truly becomes insane.
At the beginning of the story, the author first gave a description of the house and the room that the narrator is supposed to move into for her depression treatment. “There are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.”; “the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.” (Gilman). All these detailed description forms a big contrast with the previous paragraph when the narrator tried to inform us the unique garden surrounding this house, “There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden–large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.” (Gilman) If any readers still don’t sense the coldness and isolation of the house from the comparison, the description of the wallpaper allows for the morbidity of the story to truly be felt, “It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study…
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight”(Gilman)The color of the wallpapers is also important reflecting the inner state of the woman. Yellow reflects the state of depression and deep psychological experience of the woman. The narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper survives the illusions that romance and marriage deprives feelings of happiness and identity caused by her secondary and insignificant role in the life of her husband. The irony is that the husband who has to take care of his wife is unable to recognize serious illness and psychological disorder. He treats his wife using yellow wallpaper, but the only thing she needs is his love and acceptance that she is more than a second class human being.
The main symbol of the short story is the yellow wallpaper. The item is a projection of the main character’s psyche. Jane sees herself, or a different vision of herself trapped in the wallpaper and she claws at it in order to free herself. Her husband John has denied her, her one release of writing, stating that it would only endanger her mental state further. It is in this act of denying Jane what helps her define herself in her world that instigates these psychological damages.The wallpaper is a symbol of the angst a woman feels when she is treated as a second class citizen, of when her opinion doesn’t matter, nor her feelings are considered in the deciding her own fate.
Jane is a very direct link in the author’s own life story, as Charlotte Perkins-Gilman went through a similar crisis.Another subtle symbol in the text is that of the chains of the bed, which awakens the reader to imagine a mental institute in which the patients were so insane they had to be chained to their beds in order for the other people in the institute to feel safe. The chains are thus a metaphor for the type of life circumstance Jane is going through. In either symbol, it is clear that the idea of escape from a patriarchal society is needed in order to re-claim the self. Just as writing was Jane’s tool in the story so was it Perkins-Gilman’s tool in allowing the readers to realize that identity is the one thing that keeps a person sane.
The association the main character had with her identity, that of writing, was denied her and thus her entire identity was lost. Writing is the pinnacle symbol in the story, illustrating to the readers that without an outlet, a way of communicating and describing one’s imagination and thoughts there is little point in an existence where the self is refuted. The conclusion is that, she, the narrator, like a lot of women at the time was trapped in this chaotic pattern of the wallpaper, moreover, this chaos causes the women to feel inferior to men in the society. (Yellow symbolizes inferiority.) If a woman, like John’s sister, was content with the situation, and never learn to break loose, the only thing they can hope for being men and their place in a patriarchal society.
As a result, these 19th century women will never be treated seriously. That is the reason the narrator decides to tear down the yellow wallpaper over her last couple of nights, she felt that she has broken the wallpaper and thus her husband and by extension the whole of society that sought to imprison her. This was a powerful message for the women at that time, and was regarded as a sign of craziness. These efforts are by no means considered easy, she has to crawl around in the room as the women crawl around in the “yellow wallpaper. In the story, the narrator spends a lot of time on describing her husband and the treatment she received from her doctor.
There is one thing that is similar between the doctor and the husband: they are not only both highly educated, successful doctors, but the way they feel about women is also the same: They want to treat the women with passion, and they are both loving, yet the only cure they have for women with mental depression is absolutely staying away from any meaningful work, even something they love to do. Rest and isolation are their receipt for a cure.
In the story, the narrator is treated like a baby by her husband, she was never treated as a patient. Sunlight is a symbol of her husband’s schedule; he is always available to give her the prescription every waking hour, then he will go somewhere the narrator is not always sure of. The schedule for the narrator is kind of “strange”, she prefers to sleep in the sunlight, yet during the moonlight, when her husband’s control loosens, the narrator can be secretively creative. She even creeps outside not being afraid of being caught. The reader cannot blame the narrator, because this is the only time, during the moonlight, she can find her identity and brave enough to realize her deeply hidden desires. The comparison between oppressive sunlight and free-spirited moonlight further helps the reader understand what the main character has been going through day by day. One more important point that the reader can understand after reading the whole story is aesthetic changes through insanity: Gilman’s prose is a model for a convincingly gradual and subtle decline into insanity.
The narrator’s tone changes from naïve and depressed to paranoid and excited, and as she grows insane, her sentences reflect the state of her mind. Much like the chaotic pattern in the wallpaper, the sentences get choppy and confusing, grafting together disconnected one-line comments. In real life, the author, Ms. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a well educated woman who has a strong sense of self-consciousness, has developed an emotional disorder due to the fatigue and depression. The prescription she got from her doctor was trying to abandon something she loves to do – writing. This is when “The Yellow wallpaper” was born. This is truly a wonderful piece by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It reflects the psychological suffering women have to go through during that period of time, and Ms. Gilman accuses society of putting women in this state of paranoia, depression and self-destruction. It discloses the root cause of gender inequality and serves as the marker for the upcoming feminist movement.