“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a story of a woman, who is suffering from misery and disorder, she feels like trapped in a house by her husband and lock herself in a yellow room where there is no freedom. Seeing women behind the wallpaper and that delusion becomes an obsession, the narrator eventually tears down the paper to emancipate the woman and herself from things that stopped her from freedom.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Gilman mostly likes the story about her life.
The author suffered from a nervous breakdown, but she didn’t lose her hope. “For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia–and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble, I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country” (Gilman 1). She treats herself with a well-known physician. Because of the friend’s help, she came back to her normal life and continue to live her life.
Then she wrote her book “The Yellow Wallpaper” all of this start in the 1880s. The best result came out when a specialist friend get treated because of this book.
The narrator is moved to a house with her husband, that looks like a mansion, but from inside the house is scary. “A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity- but that would be asking too much of fate!” (Gilman553).
The narrator thought that living in the house will be a great experience, but every imagination faded when she started living in this house. “A home away from home which has been secured in the hope that it will prove beneficial to the narrator’s health and well-being” (Haney-Peritz 114). The narrator is in a different house because of her health, away from everyone. The narrator is there because her husband thinks that it’s better for her health, and live far from others will show improvement.
The narrator is suffering from depression, and because of this, John changes the house environment for her. John and her brother is a physician, and because of them, the narrator takes phosphates and phosphide medicine that helps her to reduce her illness. “John is a physician, and perhaps – (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)- perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster” (Gilman 553). John is a physician and the medicine, the exercising, the tonics that he gave to her is not live with her forever, but it’s relief her mind for a few moments. She thought, maybe live lonely in the house is the reason for not getting her well. “ At a time when physicians were held up as moral authorities to all their patients, physicians (and male physicians even more so) had the right – even the obligation – to advise females on all aspects of their lives” (Poirier 16). Critics suggest that physicians have full authority over the patients. The physicians are the one who makes lastly, the final decision for patients, it includes both male and female. Male physicians can also check females and have the right to guide them on their life matters.
Women had no freedom at that time and dependent on men. In the narrator’s life, John is the one who controls her and makes her life decision. “John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall. But I don’t want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!” (Gilman 556). John most likely threatens her if she didn’t recover faster than he will send her to a great physician Weir Mitchell. Weir Mitchell is one of the great physicians at that time, but according to Jane’s friend, Mitchell is the same as other physicians like her husband and brother or maybe more strict. “Their protests take on such amazingly similar patterns that today, from our advantage of time and knowledge, we might well wonder how Mitchell – or anyone else – could have failed to hear” (Poirier 15). The author describes Mitchell as infamous physicians who fail to hear patients’ inner feelings. Patients thought that their protest is an advantageous way that is following today, not the physician’s decisions.
The narrator lives lonely in a room and waits for her husband. The narrator’s husband, John loves her, and she loves him too, but live her life without her family slowly depressed her more. “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time. Of course I don’t when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone” (Gilman 556). The narrator can’t express her feelings in front of her husband because she knows it’s no use. She wrote a diary, and no one knows that because if her husband knows that he will be angry with her. She cries alone in her room, no one there to comfort her, and when John comes out at night, she felt happy, her fear away from her. “ Since haunted house is a peculiarly literary kind of architecture, the narrator’s desire for writing but also with her interest in such a place may be associated not only with her desire for writing but also with her interest in the wallpaper” (Haney-Peritz 115). At first, the narrator was scared to live alone, but as time pass she tries to focus herself on the wallpaper that looks like it moved at night. She feels that someone is behind the yellow wallpaper that slowly moved at night.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator thought something is off in her room. She mostly spends her time in the room, to find out about the strange yellow wallpaper, that is not like sun color or not yellow. “The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions – why, that is something like it” (Gilman 557). The paint of the wallpaper is like that there is some fungus attack in the wallpaper because the wallpaper color is like light yellow with a confusing pattern. She was scared at first, but this wallpaper makes her curious and becomes an obsession. ” The fear that self-identity and autonomy are threatened, or that heretofore repressed, possibly dangerous aspects of the self and others may be allowed the expression, underpins the action” (Suess 54) The narrator scared first at the thought that she will lose in this room, lost her identity, and slowly she will also bury behind this yellow wallpaper.
The narrator was desperate to know about the woman behind the wall. Only to the secret of the yellow wallpaper, the narrator didn’t sleep at night and rest in the morning. “Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move – and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” (Gilman 559). After waiting for two weeks, the narrator finally knows the secret of the wallpaper. She found out that someone came out from yellow wallpaper and moves at night. Staring at the wallpaper day and night, the narrator realizes the meaning of the yellow wallpaper and the woman trapped inside the wallpaper. The narrator was desperate to know about the woman behind the wall. Only to the secret of the yellow wallpaper, the narrator didn’t sleep at night and rest in the morning. “As Claire Kahane describes it¸ the heroine’s active exploration of the Gothic house in which she is trapped is also an exploration of the relation to the maternal body that she shares, with all its connotations of power over and vulnerability to forces within and without (338)” (Davison 54). The house where the narrator lives, maybe not that fright, and she assumed all of this because of her sickness, and isolation. She may consider herself the woman that is behind the wallpaper.
Jane knows every meaning behind the yellow wallpaper, and the woman behind it symbolizes her confinement. She locks herself in a room at this point Jenny and her husband are scared. Jane tore all the yellow wallpaper from the wall, and her husband opens the room door, he gasped. “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall so that I had to creep over him every time!” (Gilman 561). If John didn’t believe in Jane’s word, then why did he fainted? Jane thought, now she’s free like the women behind the wallpaper. “ The theme of transformation, a common Gothic motif, whereas DeLamotte says, “[w]hat was x becomes y, the line dividing them dissolving,” is a principal dynamic: the self is revealed to be other, and the Other an aspect of the self (21)” (Davison 54). In the end, it reveals that there is something that John was hiding, and this secret revealed when the wallpaper tore. All the secret comes out even it takes a long time. It’s like John is “x” who pretends like he doesn’t know anything, but he becomes “y” who knows everything from start.
Seeing women behind the wallpaper and that delusion becomes an obsession, the narrator eventually tears down the paper to emancipate the woman and herself from things that stopped her from freedom. Even the narrator gets her freedom, but didn’t find out why her husband fainted? Did he do something with the woman or the narrator imagine everything? Everything is questionable, and only her husband can answer. The narrator’s obsession leads her to know the secret of wallpaper. The narrator remains independent after she rips the wallpaper, but she lost her precious moments with their loved ones.
Cynthia Murillo (2013) The Spirit of Rebellion: The Transformative Power of the Ghostly Double in Gilman, Spofford, and Wharton, Women’s Studies, 42:7, 755-781, DOI: 10.1080/00497878.2013.820612 Literature Resource Room. Accessed 6 May 2020.
Davison, Margaret, Carol (2004) Haunted House/Haunted Heroine: Female Gothic Closets in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Women’s Studies, 33:1, 47-75, DOI: 10.1080/00497870490267197 Literature Resource Room. Accessed 6 May 2020.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Literature a World of Writing: Stories, Poems, Plays, and Essays, edited by David L. Pike and Ana M. Acosta, 2nded., Pearson,2014, pp.553-561.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’.” The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on “The Yellow Wallpaper,”. Ed. Catherine Golden. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1992. 51-53. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 62. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 May 9, 2020.
Janice Haney‐Peritz. “Monumental feminism and literature’s ancestral house: Another look at ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.” Women’s Studies, 12:2, 113-128, DOI: 10.1080/00497878.1986.9978632. Literature Resource Room. Accessed 6 May 2020.
Poirier, Suzanne. “The Weir Mitchell Rest Cure: Doctor and Patients.” Women’s Studies, vol.10,1983, pp. 15-40. Dybala Canvas Website. Accessed 6 May 2020.
Suess, Barbara A. “The Writing’s on the Wall: Symbolic Orders in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.” Women’s Studies, vol. 32, 2003, pp. 79-97. DOI 10.1080/00497870390171248. Literature Resource Room. Accessed 6 May 2020.