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What symbols and themes are represented in The Yellow Wallpaper?

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Introduction

What symbols and themes are represented in The Yellow Wallpaper? "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked..." In 1892, when Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story The Yellow Wallpaper was published it gained heavy criticism from society's more dominant sex - males. It was obvious the story had "hit a nerve" within male society as one Boston Physician wrote, "Such a story ought not to be written...it is enough to drive anyone mad to read it". It was because of comments like this the sheer volume and capacity of Gilman's writing was not appreciated or successful until mid-1900. Gilman's original intent for writing the story was to gain personal satisfaction from knowing that after reading the article a well-known "rest-cure" doctor, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, might change his idea of healing: which he did. She is insistent throughout all her interviews that this acknowledgement of her writing by Dr. Mitchell is the ideal accomplishment that she could gain. The era, which Gilman wrote her story was dark; that is for women of great intellect and understanding. It was an era of the oppressive male and the submissive female, anyone daring to go against these "natural" roles was considered to be rebelling against God and nature. ...read more.

Middle

Once during the narrative John actually says to her "What is it little girl?" which was then followed by an order of not to go walking around the room. From the views and opinions of the protagonist we get impression that she is an intelligent women, like Gilman, and to be spoken constantly to in an undermining manner would make life unbearable. Submissiveness, as I have already mentioned was one of the virtues all women were expected to have, but it could be one of the most damaging because the submissiveness of many women lead eventually to insanity. In The Yellow Wallpaper it is identified on countless occasions. At the start of the narrative we see the woman disagreeing with her husband's and society's ideas of curing "nervous exhaustion" as she believes that mental stimulation would do her good but she tells us then that she cannot do anything about it as when she tries to talk to her husband he tells her to forget about her condition, she also tells us how John laughs at her, she then resigns herself to saying "one expects that in a marriage" this phrase also demonstrates the blatant sexism in society at the time. ...read more.

Conclusion

Also there is a role reversal at the end when John, her husband faints and suggests the idea that patriarchal society had lost a substantial amount of it's power and strength. The Yellow Wallpaper is considered to be one of the greatest works of feminism ever, and it is a pity that it wasn't fully appreciated until this century. It is a detailed account of what women had to go through to achieve their ultimate dream - of being taken seriously. I think the main reason it is so good is because it vastly autobiographical, and she tries to communicate the sacrifices that she made in order to gain independence and the impact these had on her emotionally and physically. For example like Jane in the story Gilman had her baby taken away from her when she went through the "rest-cure" treatment and afterwards when she decided to pursue her writing career she had to hand her baby over to her ex-husband which must have been wholly distressing for her. Although she never admitted it, The Yellow Wallpaper was a testimony to her own life and suffrage. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was undeniably ahead of her time as far as her thoughts, actions and expressions of emotions. ...read more.

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