The Evident Dangers of “Putting a Sock in It”: a Look Into the Self-Repressed Woman in the Yellow Wallpaper

Submitted By cclark27
Words: 1289
Pages: 6

At one point or another, we have all had a certain intuitive feeling regarding our well being that we hide or overlook because our peers pressure us to. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s popular short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, illustrates the practical dangers of repressing self-expression and how this evident mental imprisonment is prone to self-destruction. The masterpiece, The Yellow Wallpaper, showcases the narrator, and main character, falling victim to the society of which she was controlled and trapped by. Much like her character, Gilman herself suffered from severe depression and as a result had to endure unusual treatments. It is widely believed that her personal experience was the sole inspiration for her tale of the extraordinary yellow wallpaper.
Gilman’s reflected character is a new mother who experiences mental deterioration when her doctor-husband, John, prescribes the “resting cure” for what is believed to be postpartum depression. The narrator shares her feelings about the treatment plan in a journal that she must keep secret, “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do? …Personally, I disagree with their decisions. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good,” (Gilman 85). However, the narrator silences her evident opposition to her prescribed treatment because of the pressures she feels from her surrounding peers. Forbidden from any creative or intellectual thinking, the narrator is practically a prisoner in her summer resting home. Her destruction first begins when she decides to keep her true thoughts in a secret journal, which she views as “such a relief!” (Gilman 91). Forced to hide her only form of expression when anyone is around, her imagination soon becomes aroused by the wallpaper surrounding her room. At first the paper is simply ugly; having torn pieces, smudges of dirt, and stained an unpleasant yellow. However, its unorganized pattern truly fascinates the narrator as she tries to figure out how it is formed. Beginning to symbolize her controlling domestic society, the pattern soon traps her mind and becomes all she can think about. Undoubtedly feeling the growing need for expression, the narrator begins to subconsciously define her situation through the figurative fantasy she has made within the wallpaper. As her fixation grows, so does the detail in the paper’s pattern. Commenting on her new findings she states, “There are things in the paper which nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer everyday,” (Gilman 92). These “things” that the narrator writes about are not only the physical shapes she begins to see, but more importantly the new feelings she begins to understand regarding her condition. The wallpaper as well as her opinions must be kept a secret because she is prohibited to exercise her mind. Every time John dismisses the narrator’s desires to leave the house, more shapes are formed and more portrayals are made, both of which the narrator is forced to keep hidden. Detained in her room and compelled not to express herself, the only escape for the narrator is through the figments of her imagination that form the life of the wallpaper. Merely once a hideous design, the intricate pattern soon transformed into a woman “creeping” behind the main pattern, which is perceived as bars on a cage. Completely engrossed by the paper, the narrator studies it hours upon hours during the day, and lies awake at night observing the trapped woman crawling about and shaking the bars of the moving pattern. She admits, “Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was,” (Gilman 95).