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Essay/Term paper: The yellow wallpaper- a woman's struggle

Essay, term paper, research paper:  The Yellow Wallpaper

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}{plain tab Pregnancy and childbirth are very emotional times in a woman's life and many women suffer
from the "baby blues." The innocent nickname for postpartum depression is deceptive because it
down plays the severity of this condition. Although she was not formally diagnosed with postpartum
depression, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) developed a severe depression after the birth of
her only child (Kennedy et. al. 424). Unfortunately, she was treated by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who
forbade her to write and prescribed only bed rest and quiet for recovery (Kennedy et al. 424). Her
condition only worsened and ultimately resulted in divorce (Kennedy and Gioia 424). Gilman's
literary indictment of Dr. Mitchell's ineffective treatment came to life in the story "The Yellow
Wallpaper." On the surface, this gothic tale seems only to relate one woman's struggle with mental
illness, but because Guilman was a prominent feminist and social thinker she incorporated themes of
women's rights and the poor relationships between husbands and wives (Kennedy and Gioia 424).
Guilman cleverly manipulates the setting to support her themes and set the eerie mood.par
}{plain tab Upon first reading "The Yellow Wallpaper," the reader may see the relationship between the
narrator and her husband John as caring, but with examination one will find that the narrator is
repeatedly belittled and demeaned by her husband. On first arriving at the vacation home John
chooses the old attic nursery against his wife's wishes and laughs at her when she complains about
the wallpaper (Kennedy et al. 424,425). In Charlotte Bronte's novel }{plain ul Jane Eyre}{plain , Mr. Rodchester
uses his attic to keep his insane wife hidden from the rest of the world. John's actions can easily be
interpreted with the same malice. The narrator's insistence that John is a caring and loving husband
draws special attention to the true meanings behind his word's and actions. Would a man deeply
concerned for his wife's mental state constantly leave her alone to tend after patients with "serious"
conditions (Kennedy et al. 426)? Any time John speaks to his wife, he uses the third person voice
or refers to her as "little girl" or some other term of endearment (Kennedy and Gioia 430,431). He
never uses her name, therefore he never really recognizes her as a person nor an equal. This dialog
can easily be compares to one between a parent and his child. Because the room was an old nursery
this idea is strongly enforced. Hance, there is no oddity in the fact that the narrator comes to think of
herself as a child (Twentieth 111). She comments on the fact that the children tore the wallpaper
and later admits to doing it herself (Kennedy et al. 426,428). Her regression is also demonstrated
by her comparison of her present room with the bedroom of her childhood (Kennedy and Gioia
}{plain tab The underlying theme of woman's rights emanates from every part of "The Yellow
Wallpaper." In an essay by Elaine R. Hedges, she points out how the wallpaper symbolized the
gross lack of women' rights (Short 119). The yellow "smooches" that Jennie finds on the clothes of
the narrator and her husband, symbolize the stain that this social situation leaves on everything it
touches (Short 120). Though she tries to break free of the overwhelming oppression she suffers, she
says the pattern, "slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples on you (Kennedy et al.
431)." The intensity of frustration the narrator feels is further described when she describes the
designs in the pattern: "(They) suddenly commit suicide - plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy
themselves in unheard-of contradictions (Kennedy et al. 429)." Hedges also suggests that the
wallpaper symbolizes the way men view women (Short 120). The "absurd, unblinking eyes" in the
wallpaper indicate the lack of intelligence women have in the perception of men (Kennedy et al.
427). The hallucination of the creeping woman that the narrator sees symbolizes the domination
that women bear. As the creeping woman violently shakes the bars of the pattern, so too does the
author struggle to gain her own identity and break free of the imprisonment of her domination
(Short 120). Jennie, the contended and quiet sister who wishes for no "better profession," is the
epitome of what the narrator is struggling against. Though ultimately she is broken by insanity, the
narrator never gives up and triumphantly creeps over her husband at the end.par
}{plain tab The setting of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is vital to uncovering the meanings hidden
underneath the surface. Because she is being forced to stay in the attic of the old house, she is also
being kept, figuratively, in the "attic" of her mind (Twentieth 111). The distance in the relationship
of the narrator and her husband is portrayed in the necessity for two beds (Kennedy et al. 425).
Bechelard goes so far as to say that the house can be seen as a small version of the world and the
social problems that burden it (Twentieth 110). Upon close scrutiny of the setting and small detail
that the narrator relates, one begins to question the innocence of the quaint "vacation home." While
describing her room and surroundings, she makes the reader suspicious when she mentions barred
windows and nailed down beds, but the gate at the top of the stairs and rings on the wall go beyond
suspicion (Kennedy and Gioia 426,429). Could the rings possibly be manacle rings, like the kind
doctors used to chain mental patients? Could that "yellow" smell be the foul smell of urine? The
mental institutions of old where not very sanitary. These facts make one wonder if the narrator's
"loving" husband institutionalized her.par
}{plain tab "The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was written to protest the treatments
of Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, but contains much more than one expects. The short story par
}{plain par
}{plain par
}{plain not only studies the complications within a marital relationship, it examines a woman's struggle with
mental illness and the hardships of inequality between the sexes. The setting plays an important role
to strengthen the themes and also makes the reader question the innocence and simplicity of what is
related to him.par
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}{plain tab tab tab tab tab Works Citedpar
}{plain par
Bronte, Charlotte. }{plain ul Jane Eyre}{plain . New York: Signet Classic, 1960par
}{plain Kennedy, X.J. and Dan Gioia. }{plain ul Literature: an Introduction to Fiction, poetry, and Drama}{plain . Sixth
tab Edition. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers Inc., 1995.par
}{plain ul Twentieth Century Literary Criticism}{plain . Vol. 9. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1983.par
}{plain Hodges, Elaine R. }{plain ul Short Story Criticism}{plain . Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993.par
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