The Yellow Wallpaper, By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Decent Essays

Many people know what it feels like to be “trapped” in the emotional sense of things, but how many can say they have been both physically and emotionally trapped. Charlotte Perkins Gilman used her personal bout with depression to create a powerful fictional narrative, which has broad implications for women. When the narrator recognizes that there is more than one trapped, creeping woman, Gilman indicates that the meaning of her story extends beyond an isolated, individual situation. Gilman’s main purpose in writing The Yellow Wallpaper is to doom not only a specific medical treatment but also the misogynistic principles and resulting sexual politics that make such a treatment possible. Those things lead to the major themes of the story: freedom, confinement, and madness.

The unequal relationship between the narrator and John is a miniature of the larger gender inequity in society. Gilman makes it clear that much of John’s condescending and paternal behavior toward his wife has little to do with her illness. He dismisses her well-thought-out opinions and her “flights of fancy” with equal disdain, while he demeans her creative impulses. He speaks of her as he would a child, calling her his “little girl” and saying of her, “Bless her little heart.” He overrides her judgments on the best course of treatment for herself as he would on any issue, making her live in a house she does not like, in a room she detests, and in an isolated environment, which makes her unhappy and

Get Access