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Discuss the main themes of the story, in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's

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Introduction

Discuss the main themes of the story, in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" The short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is about a woman who is suffering from depression (probably post-natal) and a nervous breakdown. Whilst trying to recover in an isolated country house, her condition deteriorates as her paranoia takes over. Her condition is not helped by the fact that her husband has forced her to inhabit a room with irritating features, namely the wallpaper. The story contains themes of entrapment, resignation, paranoia and the male domination of the time. The story was written in 1892, before women had gained the right to vote. Stetson was a keen women's right campaigner and felt that blatant male dominance was wrong. It was written eight years after Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Charlotte Stetson at the time) was, herself, suffering from post-natal depression. Stetson was, at the time, told to rest one hour after every meal, only have two hours of intellectual life a day and never to touch pen, brush or pencil again. This was described as the 'rest' cure. Stetson had always been a very creative person and so she felt stunted by her husband's prescribed cure. ...read more.

Middle

On all of these occasions and on many more the wife is scared to retaliate against John's decisions and I think John represents the male species as a whole in society at the time. She feels scared and suppressed and doesn't feel as though she can do anything about it. This leads on to the brief theme of resignation in this story. The wife feels reigned to the fact that men are dominant in society. Perhaps this is the way Gilman's attitude was before her she had come out of depression. There was no opposition to men at the time and so even if women as a whole felt as though it was unfair they were helpless and resigned to the fact. Another theme of the story is that of entrapment. The wife had already expressed her desire to change rooms as she didn't feel comfortable in her current room. This, however, was dismissed by John straight away. This led to the feeling of entrapment. She wasn't allowed to go out much or do anything stimulating. She was trapped in the room. Whilst describing the room the reader got the impression that room was like a prison. ...read more.

Conclusion

Her personification of the wallpaper fuels her paranoia, 'those absurd unblinking eyes'. By personifying it, she convinces herself that the wallpaper is alive and is provoking her. Her paranoia progresses still when she claims to see women 'skulking around' in alleys near the house. Her paranoia reaches a high when she believes that she can see a woman behind her wallpaper and so she tries to free her by tearing down the wallpaper. By this stage she has had a complete nervous breakdown and starts to crawl aimlessly around the wall. This breakdown is a result of the growing paranoia previously. The themes in this story can be perceived as fairly different but also similar. Gilman creates sympathy for the wife by making it see as though she is scared of her husband. The story could probably have worked without this element; however, Gilman has put this in as a political protest. The paranoia aspect of the story is, however, vital for the storyline to work. It is the main theme of the story and is directly linked with the plot. The two themes are related because the paranoia fuses from the male dominance at the time. The resignation is also a result of the male dominance as without it there would be no reason for her to be feeling helpless. In this way, the story is interesting to study because of its many layers. ...read more.

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