Thesis statement: Symbolism and settings contribute towards the development of themes of feminism and social constraints.
Perkin’s Gilman in the fiction “The Yellow Wallpaper” portrays a woman who suffers from depression and mental illness. Her husband, John diagnose her condition as hysteria with the assumption that rest will make her better. He leaves her at home with the hope of her improved state. The condition of a wife gets worse because what she needs is freedom. The story criticizes the patriarchal society where associated male females with house chores. The narrator plays the character of a young woman who continues to struggle in a typical society, denying her of freedom and independence. The reason behind the depression is her entrapped state of mind. Also, she is unable to escape the attic room that makes her sick. Themes of feminism and social constraints are visible throughout the story.
The story also symbolizes male authority by displaying the character of John. He plays the character of a typical male who Social norms and taboos prevents the girl from leaving the small room that results in her self-destruction. The narrator states, “he is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (Mays 572). The wife has to follow directions of her husband, depicting the male dominance. He maintains supremacy in the relationship is making the narrator feel about her dependency on her husband due to the financial power he gained. The wife narrates, “the great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down” (Mays 572). Superior power and male ego appear in his response of laughing at her fancies. He easily dismisses her opinions making her insignificant and worthless. Jennie lacks independence and life of her own that reflects the themes of typical patriarchy and conervativeness. Throughout the story the feelings and desires of woman remains unepxlored.
Settings convey depressive themes, “nobody will believe me what an effort it is to do what little I am able, to dress and entertain and other things” (Mays 572). The narrator becomes more depressed, but her relation didn't change. The change in her description reflects changing stages of her illness. She feels trapped and helpless causing her to tear the wallpaper so she can get rid of it. She fancies freedom, “I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back john was awake” (Mays 577). She accepts her visions of figures on wallpaper giving the audiences clues about her mental instability. By the summer her condition gets worst, and her husband takes her to the doctor. The hallucinations of the narrator explain her psychological illness. She attempts to argue with John, but he believed in to his dominant male views. He only thought that her condition was due to hysteria. She switches to the second person for drawing readers attention. She explains that the light makes it look unclear.
The incidents of the attic room and the husband-wife relationship confirms the prevalence of feminine oppression. Most of the women became mentally unstable who were unable to find roles other than housewives. The source also contributes to the exploration of the female character living according to male desires. It highlights the issues of male superiority, feminine struggles for independence and freedom. The narrator enters into a state of conflict due to her desires to exploring self. The story is the perfect representation of the repressed state of the women. Their limited roles in home highlight lack of freedom and liberty. The middle-class wife becomes victim of the patriarchal system.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." (1990).
Mays, Kelly J. The Norton Introduction to Literature (Shorter Thirteenth Edition). W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.
Suess, Barbara A. "The Writing's on the Wall" Symbolic Orders in 'The Yellow Wallpaper."" Women's Studies 32 (2003): 79-97.
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