The Yellow Wallpaper A Woman

The Yellow Wallpaper: A Woman’s Struggle Essay, Research Paper

The Yellow Wallpaper: A Woman’s Struggle

Pregnancy and childbirth are very emotional times in a woman’s life and many

women suffer from the “baby blues.” The innocent nickname for postpartum

depression is deceptive because it down plays the severity of this condition.

Although she was not formally diagnosed with postpartum depression, Charlotte

Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) developed a severe depression after the birth of

her only child (Kennedy et. al. 424). Unfortunately, she was treated by Dr. S.

Weir Mitchell, who forbade her to write and prescribed only bed rest and quiet

for recovery (Kennedy et al. 424). Her condition only worsened and

ultimately resulted in divorce (Kennedy and Gioia 424). Gilman’s literary

indictment of Dr. Mitchell’s ineffective treatment came to life in the story

“The Yellow Wallpaper.” On the surface, this gothic tale seems only to relate

one woman’s struggle with mental illness, but because Guilman was a prominent

feminist and social thinker she incorporated themes of women’s rights and the

poor relationships between husbands and wives (Kennedy and Gioia 424).

Guilman cleverly manipulates the setting to support her themes and set the eerie


Upon first reading “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the reader may see the relationship

between the narrator and her husband John as caring, but with examination one

will find that the narrator is repeatedly belittled and demeaned by her

husband. On first arriving at the vacation home John chooses the old attic

nursery against his wife’s wishes and laughs at her when she complains about

the wallpaper (Kennedy et al. 424,425). In Charlotte Bronte’s novel }{plain

ul Jane Eyre}{plain , Mr. Rodchester uses his attic to keep his insane wife

hidden from the rest of the world. John’s actions can easily be interpreted

with the same malice. The narrator’s insistence that John is a caring and

loving husband draws special attention to the true meanings behind his word’s

and actions. Would a man deeply concerned for his wife’s mental state

constantly leave her alone to tend after patients with “serious” conditions

(Kennedy et al. 426)? Any time John speaks to his wife, he uses the third

person voice or refers to her as “little girl” or some other term of endearment

(Kennedy and Gioia 430,431). He never uses her name, therefore he never really

recognizes her as a person nor an equal. This dialog can easily be compares to

one between a parent and his child. Because the room was an old nursery this

idea is strongly enforced. Hance, there is no oddity in the fact that the

narrator comes to think of herself as a child (Twentieth 111). She comments

on the fact that the children tore the wallpaper and later admits to doing it

herself (Kennedy et al. 426,428). Her regression is also demonstrated by her

comparison of her present room with the bedroom of her childhood (Kennedy and

Gioia 427,428).

The underlying theme of woman’s rights emanates from every part of “The Yellow

Wallpaper.” In an essay by Elaine R. Hedges, she points out how the wallpaper

symbolized the gross lack of women’ rights (Short 119). The yellow “smooches”

that Jennie finds on the clothes of the narrator and her husband, symbolize the

stain that this social situation leaves on everything it touches (Short 120).

Though she tries to…

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