Suppression and Escape in "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Categories: The Yellow Wallpaper

The yellow wallpaper is a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892. This story is about a woman who is suffering from a mental disorder after giving birth. John, her husband who is a physician is not believed in her illness. For him, she is just suffering from temporary nervous depression. In this story, the narrator, who is a feminist shows how the women were treated in the 19th century.

The story “The yellow wallpaper” took place in the 19th century. During this time women were considered an inferior human being. They were oppressed and did not have any world to say in social management. Society was completely dominated by men and women did not have a place only in the house. As said by Jeannette Kings and Pam Morris: “Women, no less than texts, have been subjected to a hermeneutic tradition which looks through the multiplicity of their actual beings to impose unitary meaning sealed with the authority of patriarchal knowledge and power to name.

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So women are “angels in the house”, loving, self-sacrificing, and chaste as wives, mothers, and daughters, or they are she-devils and Delilahs, dangerous, sexually enchanting, but always ultimately doomed. Read thus, solely in relation to male needs, the only approved images of self-available to women reflect and sustain the patriarchal ideology.” (1) So, when the woman got a mental illness due to post-partum depression, John thought it was a temporary depression. He is not believed in her illness. She says: “You see he does not believe I am sick.

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” (Gilman 317). For him, her problem has nothing to with health problems. Her brother, a physician also shares the same idea with john. For her treatment, John prescribes her a rest cure and prohibited her from all physical activities. She is not even allowed to read or write. The only thing she can do is eating and sleeping in a separate room.

She thinks that this rest cure ordained to her by John is not the best one. She says: “Personally, I disagree with their ideas.” (Gilman 317). She is convinced that in her actual situation, something distractive will make her happy by saying: “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good." (Gilman 317). But “What is one to do”, she says. (Gilman 317). She does not have a choice. Being a woman, an inferior human being, she is a constraint to accept John’s decision whatever her feeling. Refuting this idea is against the societal norm. As said by Jeannette Kings and Pam Morris: “Since God and nature made woman submissive, chaste, and nurturing, any deviance from these qualities can only be interpreted as a sign that she has been driven out of her “true” nature and taken possession of by some wicked spirit.” (1).

To follow the prescript, the narrator is isolated in a house three miles from the village, rented by her husband John. She describes this house to be a “nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium.” (Gilman 318). She adds that its windows barred and its walls covered in a faded yellow wallpaper whose " sprawling flamboyant patterns" commit "every artistic sin" imaginable. It is a room whose wallpaper reduces an artistic and articulate woman to a beast, stripped entirely of her sanity and humanity and left crawling on all-fours in circuits, or smooches, about the room. “I don’t like a bit our room”, she says. “But John would not hear that”, she adds. Only John's decision works. Her feeling does not make sense for him. In this John pays attention to her. She is carefully controlled and watched by him. She explains that by: “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.” (Gilman 318).

The wallpaper is the only interesting thing in the house, she starts regarding it with interest. She progressively makes the patterns in it. She says: “It likes a woman stooping down and creeping around behind that pattern.” (Garmin P3). In always looking at it, she becomes obsessed and finds out that it makes a quit change depending on the period of the day. The interesting thing is “At night in any kind of light, in the twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the woman behind is as plain as can be.”(Perkins P.693) “I didn’t realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but I am quite sure it is a woman.”(Perkins 693) Th0e woman stooping down and creeping around behind the pattern that symbolizes submission to a man in the 19th-century era. The protagonist begins to focus only on the pattern during the nighttime and sleeping in the day. During the nighttime hours, the protagonist believes the woman becomes alive and tries to free herself from captivity. “I see her in that long shaded lane, creeping up and down. I see her in those dark grape arbors, creeping all around the garden. I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.”(Perkins P.695). In spite of her fixation on the yellow wallpaper, the protagonist begins to grow in strength and self-esteem. She begins to not listen to John anymore, not look for his approval in decision-making and begins the growing process of her self-confidence. In the end, the protagonist has an awakening or rebirth of herself in regards to John. “Why there’s John at the door!”(Perkins P. 697). “It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!”(Perkins P.687). “John dear!” said the protagonist in the gentlest voice.”(Perkins P.697). These are examples of the protagonist has had a role reversal with John; she is the authoritative person now, instead of John.

Also, she could be described as the elder and John as the minor. The protagonist has taken ownership of her and could stand on her two feet without being inferior to John. The protagonist realizes I am a person that can make decisions on my own without waiting for permission from John. The protagonist is beginning to find her true identity in the story. “As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her.” (Perkins P.696). The protagonist has locked the room, while John is away and begins to peel off the layers of the wallpaper. Also, the protagonist begins creeping around the room as the wallpaper-trapped woman does when she comes out at nighttime. John finally opens the door and sees what the protagonist has done and faints. “I’ve got out, at last, said the protagonist, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” (Gilman P.32). As John faints, the protagonist proceeds to creep over him to continue with her work. The creeping over him symbolizes that the protagonist has obtained control of her own life.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Suppression and Escape in "The Yellow Wallpaper". (2020, Oct 08). Retrieved from

Suppression and Escape in "The Yellow Wallpaper" essay
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