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The Yellow Wallpaper.

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Introduction

When Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper', in the late 1890's, the position of women in society was very unequal compared to men. They were expected to remain in a domestic situation and be ruled by their husbands. Independent work was frowned upon and many women found this oppressive. Gilman, herself, suffered severe depression when marriage and motherhood meant she could not write and she explores these negative effects on women of a patriarchal society in this story. In "The Yellow Wallpaper", the narrator is driven to insanity by the restrictions imposed on her by the men in her life. Gilman's story starts with a loving husband supposedly rescuing his wife from nervous prostration by isolating her in a colonial homestead. As a well-known physician the husband believes the setting and isolation will better his wife so she can return to her newborn child. Unfortunately these things make the situation worse and the narrator is driven to insanity quicker. In this story Charlotte Gilman describes how the setting contributes to the narrator's end. As the narrator begins with her tale she describes the house as a beautiful place. She says: "It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village." ...read more.

Middle

The narrator describes that the paper is a repellent colour that almost is revolting; "a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by slow-turning sunlight." As the narrator spends more time in the top room of the colonial house the paper begins to prey on her more and more. She describes that the paper looks at her as if it knew what a vicious influence it had on her. The narrator is confined to the room so much that she begins to see objects appear within the paper. She states that: "there is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down." Because of her confinement the narrator becomes obsessed with the patterns of the wallpaper, which constantly dwells on her mind. The amount of time that the narrator is confined in her room is shown through the passage, "This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then." This passage not only describes the amount of time spent in the room but also the amount of time she studies the wallpaper. ...read more.

Conclusion

The vague sub-pattern referred to earlier starts to become clearer until she can see that: "it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern." She thinks this faint figure is shaking the outer pattern and later on becomes sure of this: "The front pattern does move - and no wonder! The women behind shakes it." She decides to free this entrapped woman, peels off yards of the paper and then more explicitly identifies with her, and all the other women she now pictures as imprisoned behind the "bars" of patriarchal society: "I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did." At the end of the story she feels she has freed herself, declaring to John: "I've got out at last... and I've pulled out most of the paper so u can't put me back." However by this time she is completely mad and is creeping around and around the walls of the room. Insanity is he only way she can escape the restrictions of a society ruled by men. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper" proves women's lives at the time were dreadfully circumscribed. In this story the narrator is driven to insanity because of the entrapment she felt due to the room and the wallpaper, but, more importantly, due to the patriarchal society that imposed these things on her. Elia Bols 11WD English (Ms S. Brennan-Dent) ...read more.

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