Oppression And Madness Essay, Research Paper
Oppression And Madness
The Yellow Wallpaper, written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a chilling story of one woman s descent into madness. It is also a disturbing but brilliant analysis of the extreme efforts of society, at this time, and in some ways today as well, to oppress women in order to reflect the common role of women as a subordinate to men, especially their husbands. Through vivid imagery and strong sensory details, Gilman enables the reader to better comprehend the profound symbolism that exists throughout the story.
In the story, the narrator, a writer, is taken, by her husband, who is a physician, to a summer home to recover from a nervous condition. Her husband, John, tells her, despite her desperation, that there is no reason for how she feels and that she must stop having these ridiculous thoughts.
Although it does seem like he cares about his wife and wants her to get better, his ignorance and condemnation of both her imaginative impulses and her writing do nothing to help her recovery. Throughout Gilmans life, The ideal woman was not only assigned a social role that locked her into her home, but she was also expected to like it, be cheerful and gay, smiling and good humored (Lane to Herland 109). As a result of this absurdity, she tries to rest and do as she is told, like a child, but this just manages to exacerbate her suffering. Because John doesn t believe that she is truly ill, this makes her feel inadequate as well as furthering her fear that she is, in fact, losing her mind.
When John enforces the inactivity that pushes her deeper into her psychosis, he virtually imprisons her in a room that has no escape. She is trapped in the house, especially that room, just as she is trapped in her life, as well as her marriage. He has clearly shown her, through both his actions and words that her opinions are not of any significance. It is further proved when she writes, I don t like our room a bit. It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work, but he says her would as soon put fireworks in my pillow case as to let me have those stimulating people about now . Forbidden to think and write, the narrator becomes increasingly more depressed. Also, the room chosen for her was a former nursery, introducing the predominant symbolism of the story. Her room represents her role in society where she is legally like a child, under the care and control of an adult, namely her husband.
The fact remains that she is, for all intents and purposes, isolated from the rest of the world. Because of this, she becomes fixated on the yellow wallpaper in her room, with sprawling, flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin . As her obsession with the wallpaper mounts, her mental health is quickly deteriorating. She creates a vision of an imprisoned female figure trying to emerge. She wants the woman to be free because in actuality, the woman she has created symbolizes herself, as well as, her sanity. The vision of the woman is clearly a result of her prolonged isolation. It is as if the haunting images of the wallpaper clearly mirror those same feelings inside the narrator s mind. Unable to communicate her feelings, she begins to see herself in the wallpaper. She wants her freedom, but knows that John will never allow it. But her developing insanity is actually a form of rebellion. She knows that she isn t getting better and that John will, once again, be disappointed in her. It is those feelings of worthlessness and self loathing that further accelerate her plunge into the vast crevices of darkness that exist in the human mind.
There are startling similarities between Gilman s real life experiences and The Yellow Wallpaper. In her brief essay entitled, Why I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper ?, the author talks about her own battles with depression, including her time spent with Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, the physician who had treated her. She also discusses the treatment, one of complete bed rest and the advice to live as domestic a life as far as possible, to have but two hours intellectual life a day and never to touch pen, brush, or pencil again , as long as she lived. It almost drove her mad.