The Yellow Wallpaper

2519 words - 10 pages

The Yellow Wallpaper
In 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The story is written in first person narrative in the form of twelve journal entries as if the reader is reading the author’s actual journal. This style allows the reader to understand what the narrator is experiencing. It centers on a young woman who, after having a baby, does not savor the roles of wife and mother. So, she is diagnosed with a nervous condition and “sentenced” to a rest cure. The narrator is essentially imprisoned her room without mental stimulation or any creative outlet, causing her to turn to the yellow wallpaper in her room for a release. The wallpaper is the outstanding symbol of the story, and it represents her sense of entrapment. As the narrator spirals into madness her obsession with the wallpaper increases, she becomes one with the wallpaper, and she views herself as becoming stronger.

obsession with the wallpaper increases she spirals into madness
The narrator “is hustled off to the country into a life of enforced idleness of body and mind”; she is sheltered in a former nursery with yellow wallpaper (MacPike). In this room she is to sleep, get fresh air, and take tonics—nothing else, including no mental stimulation. The wallpaper is the one dominant feature of the room, she describes the wall paper as “revolting: a smoldering unclean yellow,… a sickly sulphur tint” (Gilman 438). The color yellow usually signifies something sunny, bright, cheerful, but in this case it seems to propose sickness, as if the wallpaper is foretelling the narrator’s impending insanity. She writes, “This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had” (Gilman 439). Due to a lack of mental stimulation, the narrator quickly becomes fascinated with “reading” the wallpaper. She makes a point of describing the wallpaper and its pattern many, many times. At first, the wallpaper is ugly to her, “One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin” (Gilman 438). The ugliness of the wallpaper bothers her, but maybe it is not the ugliness, perhaps it is the fact that the wallpaper is allowed to be ugly—it is free to be ugly. That truth is what really bothers her since she is not free to do as she pleases. The wallpaper becomes her constant companion and she dwells on it. As she reads it, she notices the wallpaper has a sub-pattern, like a palimpsest, but it is not clear what it is. It appears to be “a formless sort of figure that seems to skulk” (Gilman 440). She personifies the wallpaper, “She learns to use it on an intellectual level to replace the adult intellectual activity forbidden her. Seeking a human with whom to interact” (MacPike). In her search for intellectual stimulation, she becomes intimate friends with the wallpaper. At this point psychology, the narrator is in a state of high anxiety. Anxiety develops when two goals or needs are in conflict with each other (Saxton 327). She wants to write and read and be...

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