An Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper'

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1. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1899) contains elements that could be construed as a feminist take on a paternalistic society or a gothic ghost story. When the writer states that ""¦ he hardly lets me stir without direction," I can't imagine anything more claustrophobic. Given the period in which this is written, it makes sense that this attitude is fueled by the endemic paternalism of the time. When the heads with bulging eyes began to appear in the wallpaper, as if these heads represented a harvest of women trapped in a paternalistic society, this could be construed as the writer portraying the oppression of women, but it could also be viewed as a ghostly manifestation. However, the one consistent theme throughout the story is that the writer is slowly losing her mind, due in large part to her husband's well-intentioned prescription of rest. While this type of treatment would never be tolerated in Western society today, from what I know of that period the husband was probably acting in good faith. If this assessment is true, then this can't be a story about the oppression of women or a ghost story, but a story about the slow encroachment of insanity brought about by a paternalistic approach to medicine. 2. The title of the short story "The Story of An Hour" by Kate Chopin (1894) does appear a bit muted compared to what happens to Mrs. Mallard over the course of an hour. She goes from dreading a long life in her current marriage, to experiencing
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