Insanity and Feminism in the Works of Charlotte Perkins GilmanThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman reflects the intense struggle with of a woman during the late 1800s. However, as the story unfolds, we realize the reasons for this insanity and the connections of this breakdown to the main characters husband, John. What we discover is the way women were treated during the late 1800s and the significance of this treatment on their lives. The story clearly expresses the pain, opposition, and depression experienced by women at that time and provides a backdrop for the initial stages of the feminist movement.As the story begins, the author decribes in detail her painful relationship with her husband. She writes John laughs at me of course, but one excepts that in marriage.
She also explains So I take phosphates or phosphites-whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to work until I am well again. It is clear that the main character is very unhappy in her marriage which causes her pain, and that she is unable to do the things she would like to do. When she states You see he does not believe I am sick! it is evident that she feels very repressed and that no matter what she says that she needs her husband, he does not have the capacity to understand or to respond to those needs. He is emotionally unavailable. Her frustration grows and contributes to her insanity and pain as the story progresses.The house in this story represents the main character and the opposition she faces related to her husband.
It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places they you read about, for there are the hedges and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people. The way she describes how the house stands back from the road and the hedges, walls, and gates that lock are symbolic of how she sees herself. She feels very alone.
The main character states I am afraid, but I dont care-there is something strange about the house-I can feel it. This explains how she feels about herself, that something is wrong, she can feel it. These feelings are directly connected to oppositional nature of her husband.
The rest of the story conveys in great detail the symbolism of the yellow wallpaper, its contribution to her depression. The wallpaper seems to represent the main characters husband. The wallpaper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother-they must have had perseverance as well as hatred. She continues This wallpaper has a sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then. This mirrors the way she feels about her relationship with her husband, how he controls her every move, and the way he smothers her. In direct contrast is the pattern in the wallpaper which represents the main character and her marriage.
The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out. The main character continues Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around very fast, and her crawling shakes all over. The description of the patterns in the yellow wallpaper represent a constant struggle in an unhappy marriage and the main characters desire to leave the relationship, but reflect her inability to do so. Consequently, she becomes extremely depressed.
In conclusion, The Yellow Wallpaper is a very symbolic story, representative of life in the late 1800s, and the struggle for women to be heard. This story is written about the life and experiences of one individual, her pain, opposition, and depression, but can be expanded to represent the struggle for freedom for all women during that era.Bibliography: