The Yellow Wallpaper

In the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a woman is held captive by an oppressive husband and a society that just does not understand her “illness”. In a story that seems to be self-inspired, Gilman’s main character is fighting the clingy, overprotective husband and his pushy treatments. Gilman’s character is also battling against a closed-minded society that just does not understand her nervous condition. Ultimately, this story is one of the freedom of women from the traditional role of submissive wife in the eyes of society.

The woman in the story submits to her husband’s wishes and it only drives her mad. Only after standing up to her husband is the woman liberated.First of all, the main character sees a woman trapped in the wallpaper of the room the narrator and her husband are staying in. The narrator observes, “The front pattern does move – and no wonder! The woman behind it shakes it!”  This woman, behind the wallpaper, is symbolic of the narrator’s own life. The woman behind the wallpaper is trapped behind that paper, just as the narrator is trapped in her own life. The narrator is being nearly suffocated by her overbearing husband and his treatments for her nervous condition. The narrator says that, “So I take phosphates… and am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again”. This shows the repercussions of a woman who is put into the care of a man.

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Through this observation, the society that this story is set in seems to be refusing to accept the narrator’s condition. She is struggling to find her place in both her relationship with her husband and the society that has misinterpreted and is unwilling to accept her illness.Secondly, the narrator says that John’s sister thinks that, “it is the writing which made me sick! But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these windows”. This represents the way that the narrator is living her life. She is merely an observer in her own life.

Her husband and his sister do everything for her, and hardly let the narrator do anything for herself. The narrator is told what is best for her, and never able to decide for herself what she needs or wants. Her husband and his sister take care of the narrator, but in their attempts to do so, are only suffocating the narrator.Lastly, at the end of the story, the narrator locks herself in her room and throws the key out of the window so that she may free the woman behind the wallpaper.

When John comes into the room, the narrator tells her husband, “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper so you can’t put me back!” This scene shows that the narrator has finally freed herself from her husband’s suffocating and often annoying fussing over her nervous condition. The narrator also makes it evident that she will not go back to being smothered and oppressed.In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” tells the tale of a woman who is being nearly suffocated by her husband’s demands for her. The narrator of the story is struggling to free herself from the oppression of both her husband and her society. Every move that the narrator makes is monitored by her husband and sister-in-law which only drives the woman further into madness. The narrator is also trying to find her place in her relationship with her husband and her place in society.

Living in a society in which she must be locked away until she is “better”, the woman finally refuses to submit to all of her husband’s demands and takes a stand for herself. Only by freeing the woman behind the wallpaper is the narrator finally set free herself.



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