5, February 2013
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Biographical information about the author of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was a writer and a social reformer born July 30, 1860 in Hartford Connecticut. Charlotte had a long and difficult childhood. Her father left her mother with t two children to raise alone. Charlotte married an artist by the name of Charles Stetson in 1884 and they had a daughter named Katherine. Charlotte suffered greatly from depression and underwent several series of unusual treatments for her great depression. Those experiences are believed to have inspired her best known short story The Yellow Wallpaper in 1892. While Charlotte is best known for her fiction she was also known for being a great feminist, lecturer and intellectual, who’s work in a nonfiction publication called ‘Women and Economics” was published in 1898. As a feminist she called for women to gain economic independence and the work helped cement her standing as a social theorist. In 1900 Charlotte married for a second time to her cousin, George Gilman, and they remained together until his death in 1934. Following George’s death in 1934, Charlotte found out she had inoperable breast cancer and committed suicide August 17, 1935.
A brief synopsis of this story would go as follows; the narrator, a young woman married and severely depressed, moves into a summer home with her husband and child. She complains that her husband John, also her physician, belittles both her illness, her thoughts and concerns in general. John has recommended a treatment that requires that she do almost nothing active and she is especially forbidden from working and writing. She feels that the activity, freedom, and the interesting work would help her condition and she reveals that she has begun to write her secrets in a journal in order to “relieve her mind.” This expression show how the cultural setting of the dominant husband and if she knows what is good for her scenario plays out.
The story setting takes place in an old house, during the summer. Due to her depression her physician and husband John, banishes her to a room that once must have been a nursery, for the ugly yellow wallpaper was torn off in spots. She is intrigued by the patterns and designs in the wallpaper, and her imagination runs amuck.
Many of the similes the author writes of are from the narrator who is not entirely reliable and yet is prone to making very potent statements about her situation as an oppressed woman. Though she disguises her complaints about feeling trapped and unhappy with admissions that it all might be because of her nervous condition (as opposed to a legitimate sense of oppression by her husband) it’s impossible for the reader to ignore the fact that it might be her husband’s treatment of her that is the problem. For instance, Gilman’s narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper tends to make seemingly innocent remarks such as, “John laughs at me, if course, but one expects that in marriage” and “he is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction”. While such “offhand” comments about the nature of her relationship and marriage might not be taken seriously in another context, the narrator’s growing madness makes these statements about John’s habit of being overprotective and oppressive impossible to shrug off. It’s those chiastic traits that have turned me off from men, for the last 20 years. By creating a character whose narration becomes increasingly out of touch and “crazy”, the narrator’s statements that follow the more innocent claims are to be taken more seriously. For instance, just after one of her more innocent-sounding remarks about marriage, the narrator states in one of the impressive quotes from The Yellow Wallpaper, “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.” Though she