Yellow Wallpaper

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“How does one become a butterfly? They have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar” -Trina Paulus. This quote can basically wrap up the story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman. The way this quote can relate to the story is because you can take away from the story that throughout her entire marriage she tried to be perfect. She wanted to be the perfect wife, sister, or “butterfly” that it didn’t occur to her that she would be giving up who she was as a person or “caterpillar”, in the process. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s The Yellow wallpaper though the Setting, the character Jane, and symbols.

No matter what a story is about, the writer can make you feel like you are there based upon how they make and describe the setting. This being said, in The Yellow Wallpaper, Perkin-Gilman takes the setting and made it describe the feministic criticism going on in the story. In this story, Jane describes how the house that she and her husband are in makes her feel. It is unfurnished, which I think describes how she feels as a person. She describes how the walls are peeling and how there are holes in the walls making it obvious of the many previous owners. I think that this makes her feel unworthy of anything nice because that is all she has ever known. Also, in she says in the passage that her husband doesn’t believe she is sick and how she stays in her room all day because she can’t do anything due to her illness. Then she describes how being alone in the room is not making her feel any better due to the fact that it is gross and old. While the setting is a very important factor in this passage, the character Jane, is much more important to understand.

“In a world where you can be anything _ be yourself”. This common known quote is something that The Yellow Wallpaper’s Jane, was beginning to understand throughout the passage. The things that Jane’s character does throughout the story lead readers to believe that it contributes to feministic criticism. Jane is completely supported and dependent on her husband, John. For everything. This is supported because in the story, she talked about how “protective” of her he was and how she couldn’t lift a finger without him barging in and making sure she was allowed to do so. “I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort and here I am a comparative burden already!” This quote from the passage gives off another example as to how Jane feels like a burden to John. She basically feels bad because she is starting to realize that she is human and has her own thoughts and emotions to deal with and cannot keep living like a doormat to her husband. Another example as to how she feels like a burden is that she used to have her own imagination and creative urges. She knew that as a perfect wife, she couldn’t allow John to know these things or he would judge her and put her down. Because that is how a marriage is suppose to be. As irritating as Jane’s character is throughout this entire story, the symbols that one can take out from this story are much more meaningful to know and understand.

“A signal is comprehended if it serves to make us notice the object or situation it bespeaks. A symbol is understood when we conceive the idea it presents” Susanne Langer. Everything can have symbolism, it just depends on how you look and perceive it all. In the story The Yellow Wallpaper, there are many things that are symbols for how Jane is feeling. The most obvious one I believe is the yellow wallpaper itself. In the story, Jane is always staring at the wallpaper, tarring at it and seeing images on it. At one point she sees a woman behind it and then she takes all of it off the wall. Thus making the reader believe that in her mind, that woman is herself, and the wallpaper represents all of the things in her way from feeling freedom in her own life. Another example of symbolism in the passage The Yellow Wallpaper is how Jane is scared of her husband. This is supported because when she made a witty remark to him saying that he body will be better, but suggesting that her mental state will not be healthy. He gave her a “stern and reproachful” look that made her shutter and not want to speak another word to him. This symbolizes how Jane thought a marriage with John should be. She thought that this was how every couple acted and never second guesses it until she broke free while in her room. This is really symbolizing how Jane saw herself and what she felt she deserved at the time. When she feared John, it was because she didn’t know any different treatment. What Jane didn’t understand was that how she was being oppressed did not need to happen. She finally realized that at the end of the story but just didn’t know what to do with it.

Women have been, and will be oppressed by men forever. This is an unfortunate truth. In the story, The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane’s character is being oppressed and treated poorly by everyone around her because she is a woman. Everything about this story screamed feministic oppression. This is because the setting gave off key examples as to how she felt based on how Jane described her surroundings, as well as the character of Jane herself. She described what she felt she deserved and what “every” marriage was suppose to be like. Maybe the most important examples provided to us through this story are the symbols that come along with the story. The yellow wallpaper symbolized how trapped she was in her own life. Once she tore down all of the wallpaper, she was free and she didn’t understand that she could have actually been free all along. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s The Yellow wallpaper though the Setting, the character Jane, and symbols. In The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane is being chained down in her own surroundings and cannot get out without doing something drastic at the end. For the rest of time women will be oppressed by men. However, maybe with time, and consistent effort, things could change so that no one ever has to live as Jane did, ever again.





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