Through her stories, "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Making a Change," Charlotte Perkins Gilman portrays two contrasting views of women in similarly restrictive circumstances.

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Stella Dubish


Dr. S. Orr, Professor

April 20, 2001

The Choice

        Through her stories, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Making a Change,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman portrays two contrasting views of women in similarly restrictive circumstances.  Both the women are young mothers with creative talents that are being squelched by their husbands and families.  The difference lies in what the two women do within these contexts.  While one woman takes control of the situation, ultimately renewing and empowering herself, the other submits to the forces pushing against her, eventually going crazy.

        In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a woman, Jane, struggles for mental independence.  She has been diagnosed with “temporary nervous depression” by her husband, who is a doctor.  She purports, however, that she is neither nervous nor depressed.  She simply wants mental and social stimulation, both of which are not being allowed her because of her “condition.”          

Instead of receiving visitors and enjoying the countryside, Jane is confined to a room that used to be a nursery.  This is just one of the evidences of how she is treated like a child throughout the whole story.  The one characteristic of the room that haunts Jane is the wallpaper – it is yellow, grotesque and glaring.  She spends her spare time watching it and writing about it.  The color and pattern intrigue her so much that she cannot sleep for thinking about it and looking at it.

Although Jane is “on vacation” with her family, she sees little of her husband.  He is a doctor and spends most of his time out of the house, working with his patients.  In the meantime, Jane stays in the house, seldom even venturing downstairs or into the garden.  The only people in the house with her are her own young baby and her sister-in-law, Jennie.  Jane writes that she “cannot be with” her baby.  It is obvious that she loves the child, but she has little desire to care for it and nurse it.  Such a statement coming from a nineteenth century mother would be considered radical and crazy in itself.  According to society and her own family, Jane’s place was in the home, caring for her husband and children.

Whether Jane can be considered a “writer” or not, she makes it very clear that she enjoys and is gifted at writing.  She finds that it is an outlet for her mental and emotional creativity.  This is yet another thing that brands Jane as unusual  for her time.  Her husband feels that it is detrimental for her to write anything, or even imagine anything.  This ban on her creative talents only makes Jane more secretive and introverted.  She has to sneak in her writing times when everyone is out of the house or at least when she is alone in the room.

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As Jane spends more time in the room, observing and analyzing the wallpaper, she becomes more subdued and gentle.  Her intrigue with the wallpaper makes her forget about recovering from her condition.  Her husband believes that she is getting better, but, in fact, she is hardly sleeping or eating.  She allows him to continue believing this, submitting to his advice with hardly a question.

The drama that Jane imagines is happening within the wallpaper eventually drives her to destroy it, then lock herself in the room and crawl around it.  At one point she even considers jumping out of the ...

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