The Yellow Wallpaper is a fictional narrative, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which reflected real life societal themes. The author used her personal dealing with postpartum depression to help convey the biased social attitudes directed towards women. The narrator’s fascination with the multiple shadows can be viewed as a symbol of the meaning of her story, indicating that it extends past that isolated case. Gilman’s narrative criticizes not only a specific case of treatment but the chauvinistic principles and resulting sexual politics that it stems from.
The relationship between the narrator and her husband John provides an example of the breach between genders throughout society. John’s behavior toward his wife is often condescending and patriarchal, and it is made apparent that his actions do not stem solely from her illness. He addresses her like a child, belittling her, with terms like “little girl” and “blessed little goose.” The protagonist often finds her ideas and opinions are superseded by John’s, especially regarding her course of treatment. His control over her state of being leaves her confined to a room where she is isolated from outside sources and unhappy. John’s choice of care proves that he sides behind the prevailing scientific theories which claim that women’s innate inferiority leaves them in a state of dependence.
The protagonist’s response to his cure depicts not only the negative effects of John’s, but society’s, treatment of her. At first, she attempts to challenge both her husband’s doctoring and personal bouts of lassitude. She is able to find an outlet in writing but is forced to do so covertly because of John’s oppressive attitude towards her creativity. One can see how the unfavorable social definitions of women are internalized when the