The Yellow Wallpaper

1117 words - 4 pages

The psychologically thrilling story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman explores the dark and twisted aspect of the American society in the nineteenth century. Through the use of theme, Gilman creatively captures the cultural subordination and struggles women faced on a regular basis.
The first theme present in the horrific and heart wrenching story is the subordinate position of women within marriage. “The Yellow Wallpaper” begins with the narrator’s wish that her house were haunted like those in which “frightened heroines suffer Gothic horrors” (DeLamotte 5). However, this wish is in essence to empower herself. The narrator is already afraid of her husband and is suffering mentally and emotionally. She desperately wishes for an escape “through fantasy, into a symbolic version of her own plight: a version in which she would have a measure of distance and control” (DeLamotte 6). Throughout the text, Gilman reveals to the reader that during the time in which the story was written, men acquired the working role while women were accustomed to working within the boundaries of their “woman sphere”. This gender division meritoriously kept women in a childlike state of obliviousness and prevented them from reaching any scholastic or professional goals. John, the narrator’s husband, establishes a treatment for his wife through the assumption of his own superior wisdom and maturity. This narrow minded thinking leads him to patronize and control his wife, all in the name of “helping her”. The narrator soon begins to feel suffocated as she is “physically and emotionally trapped by her husband” (Korb). The narrator has zero control in the smallest details of her life and is consequently forced to retreat into her fantasies. Her fantasies serve as a safe haven, where she can successfully retain control and exercise the power of her mind.
The second theme present in the story is the importance of self-expression. Gilman’s narrator is cruelly trapped by both the stereotypes of nineteenth century American society, which states that a woman’s only purpose is to bear and raise children, and by her husband’s obstinate belief in this code. The story continuously plays on a relationship between the conventional “domestic world of women and the Gothic horrors that represented it” (DeLamotte 3). Instead of presenting women’s daylight world held as a nightmare, Gilman opens her story with the picture of the “nightmare world apprehended as merely ordinary” (DeLamotte3). In the beginning of the story, the narrator desirously gazes at the ordinary house and almost amorously wishes that it were haunted. However, her desire for a romantic escapism “masks a desire for escape” (DeLamotte 4). The narrator’s condition, which her husband does not take seriously, has already been associated with the mystery of the house, which he does not believe in either. Her twisted “desire to escape by being frightened has been linked to the hidden anger that makes her...

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