Self-destructive Self-expression in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Self-destructive Self-expression in The Yellow Wallpaper In "The Yellow Wallpaper", a story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the conflict centers around the protagonist's inability to maintain her sanity in a society that does not recognize her as an individual. Her husband and brother both exert their own will over hers, forcing her to conform to their pre-set impression an appropriate code of behavior for a sick woman. She has been given a "schedule prescription for each hour in the day; [John] takes all care from me" (155). This code of behavior involves virtually no exertion of her own free-will. Rather, she is expected to passively accept the fact that her own ideas are mere fancy, and only the opinions of the men in her life…show more content…
The wallpaper takes on immediate significance when it is introduced to the story, simply because its characteristics are described with such detail. At this point, the paper seems to represent all that is the opposite of the woman, and she is repulsed by it. "I never saw a worse paper in my life,"(l56) writes the woman. Whereas she is a sweet, dutiful wife to her husband, and her behavior carefully conforms to what society expects of her, she is disgusted by the paper's poor condition, its faded, soured color, and its pattern, "One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin"(156). Her mild-mannered behavior, evident in the opening scenes, carefully conforms with what society expects of her; therefore, this vague description of the pattern of the wallpaper seems to be an inversion of the woman's personality. However, closer analysis proves that her reasons for hating the paper are illogical, and reveal a hypocrisy in the way she views the structure of society. The idea of an artistic "sin", implies that artists are supposed to follow a specific set of rules. This is not true. There are many schools of artistic thought, but artists are continually challenging those traditions and developing new ones. An artistic sin, then, would be an original technique, but to call originality in art sinful goes against the nature of art. Similarly, the woman feels that she is required to
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