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A Woman Driven Mad in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow-Wall Paper

Decent Essays
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow-Wall Paper” is, on the surface, a story about a woman driven mad due to a combination of post-partum depression and the potentially devastating effects of the treatment methods employed at the time. However, the story is also, in a deeper sense, about the fundamental identity of women in the 19th century. Gilman gives voice to this issue by painting a picture of the life of Jane, the protagonist in the story. She gives us an intimate look into the character’s psyche as she skids down the slope towards madness due to her virtual imprisonment and blatant disregard for her thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Not only does she give us a sense of a woman’s identity and place in this time but we also get a unique insight into the character’s own feeling of self-identity through the imaginary woman - who the protagonists discovers trapped in the wall paper of the room she herself is trapped in. The protagonist in the story is trapped in every sense of the word. Unable to convince her husband or any other medical professional of her ailment, she is forced to acquiesce to their insistence that it is just “temporary nervous depression” or a “slight hysterical tendency” (792). The room essentially becomes her prison. We see this both with her observation that they room she is kept in has barred windows and that at night the pattern on the wallpaper “becomes bars” (799). The fact that she repetitively describes aspects of her room as having bars
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