Depravation to Freedom
In the “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the short story touches on important recurring themes that the author directly correlates around her era in the late 1800s. The story is about a woman who is suffering from depression and is taken to an ancestral home for the summer by her husband John, who is a doctor. Her husband and his family are all doctors, so they insist that the wife should keep away from all human/entertaining activities and should take as much rest as she can, keeping her from interacting to others, writing, and any fun activities. The story setting takes place at a time where women had a very different role and social status from society to their marriages, than women have now in the present time. Back in the late 1800s, women had no say in their marriages and we’re subordinate compared to the men. The author uses her personal experiences as well as imagery to further give the readers insight on women’s struggles from the subordination of women in marriages, to the importance of self-expression, and even the horrors of the “sleep cure”.
From the beginning, the narrator is seen examining the house her husband has taken her for their summer vacation and describes it as an old spooky upper class estate. She then has a discussion about her illness and of her marriage, in which she complains that her husband John, who is also her doctor, dismisses her illness, her thoughts, and concerns. In this part of the story, the author gives you the impression that the husband, with his authoritative title as doctor, dismays his wife’s opinions because he is at a higher status of her, which is why he scuffles her concerns off throughout the story which makes it seems like she doesn’t know better and he does. The narrator has no say in even the smallest details of her life, and so she retreats into her imaginative fantasy, which is the only place she can retain some control and exercise the power of her mind. Her treatment called “the rest cure”, which was prescribed by her husband, requires that she do almost nothing active, and she is especially forbidden from working and writing. She feels that activity, freedom, and interesting work would help her condition and reveals that she has begun her secret journal in order to relieve her mind. The author, Charlotte Perkins, uses her own experiences with the rest cure to write the story “The Yellow Wallpaper”. An excerpt from an interview with Charlotte Perkins from why she wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper”, she explains that she herself suffered from severe and continuous nervous breakdowns and that a “wise man” told her to “live as domestic a life as possible… have but two hours of intelligent life a day and never touch pen, brush, or pencil again as long as I lived.”(511)
As the weeks of the summer pass, the narrator continues to long for more stimulating company and activity, and complains about John’s patronizing/controlling ways. She repeatedly comes back to this yellow wallpaper, which at first she hated because it was old and weary, however she begins to see the wallpaper as not only ugly, but oddly menacing. Soon the wallpaper dominates the narrator’s imagination. She becomes possessive and secretive, hiding her interest in the paper and making sure no one else examines it so that she can “find it out” on her own. Mistaking the narrator’s fixation for tranquility for the wallpaper, John thinks she is improving, however she sleeps less and less and is convinced that she can even smell the paper all over the house. She then discovers weird markings on the paper, which then is seen all around the room, as if someone crawling on the wall had created it. She then sees clearly a woman who is trying to get out from behind the yellow wallpaper. The narrator sees her shaking the bars at night and creeping around during the day, when the woman is able to escape briefly. The