A Feminist Critique of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

“Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be”, (Spark Notes). Charlotte Perkins-Gilman was born on July 3, 1860 in Hartford Connecticut. At age 24, she married an artist named Charles Stetman, which led to a nervous breakdown causing her to get a divorce, and made her move to California. This story is mainly about the fact that during the time period of the story that the women didn’t really have a say in relationships with the husband. Charlotte was a great-niece to an author of the nineteenth century Harriet Beecher Stowe. After a little while she was diagnosed with an incurable type of breast cancer that later killed her. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, through symbols, dialogue, and the character John.
To start off, Charlotte Perkins-Gilman expressed feminist criticism by using symbols throughout the story, “Yellow Wallpaper”. For example, “Here I am a comparative burden already”, (Perkins-Gilman). This part of the story was taking about how she feels that she doesn’t make a difference in a conversation between her and her husband John. No matter how hard she tried to convince John, he wouldn’t let her, and he treated her like a little child in the process. Another example that shows symbols in the story is, “Put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those simulating people about now” (Perkins-Gilman). This quote explains how he is embarrassed of his wife, which gives explanation about every mans’ thoughts about women and how they are not very important to them intellectually. Even though it may not seem that way, the women in this time really didn’t know what they were doing half of the time. The men felt that they needed to teach their girls how to behave properly so they treated them like little children.

The next way that Charlotte Perkins-Gilman expressed feminist criticism was by using the setting of an area in the story. Throughout the story she gave the reader key areas, and details about each important part of the story. For example, “It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls”, (Perkins-Gilman). This quote explains the fact that she stays at home and is getting really comfortable with the wallpaper after a little while. After staying in her room for a little everything starts to be normal for her, until she sees a figure in the wall. Throughout the story she looks at this figure, and never really realizes what it is until the end of the story. Another example of the setting is, “It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw- not beautiful one like buttercups, but old foul bad yellow things” (Perkins-Gilman). This other quote explains how after seeing this wallpaper for a while she really starts to get annoyed by it. Sitting in the room after all of this time really starts to irritate her, and she starts to see a figure in the wallpaper. Later in the story it is interpreted that the figure that she saw in the wall was really her and the fact that she wanted to control her own life.

Finally, the last way that Charlotte Perkins-Gilman expresses feminist criticism is by using the character John as a misogynistic man. Throughout the story the reader can understand that John feels that he is superior to his wife and that she has no say in anything in the relationship. By seeing this the reader can understand that he feels that she is similar to a child; she needs to learn how to behave properly in front of people. For example, “Dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my hear”, (Perkins-Gilman). This quote really shows how John feels and treats her like she is a child. The reader starts to understand that he doesn’t feel like she is equal to him or any other man that she speaks to. All men pretty much felt the same way he did during this time period, because women still were just the person that watched over the house and cooked the food. Another example of this feminist criticism is, “I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia. But he said I wasn’t able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished”, (Perkins-Gilman). This quote shows how John has the control of his wife in all situations and that she has no choice in the matter. John is a very misogynistic man and doesn’t care if his wife wants to go visit her family or not.

Charlotte Perkins-Gilman expresses feminist criticism throughout the story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by using symbols, dialogue, and the character John. What people can learn about this paper is that a lot of people today still feel that women don’t have the same rights as men do. Some may agree with that thought, and others may feel that women are equals to men and deserve the same rights. This story’s significance is telling us readers that women before today didn’t have a say in what happened in their family. The male had the choice most of the time and the women had to follow it.




Works Cited
Perkins-Gilman, Charlotte. "The Yellow Wallpaper". n.d.
Spark Notes. 25 October 2011 <http://www.sparknotes.com>.





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