Feminist Critique for The Yellow Wallpaper

October 31, 2011
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“And woman should stand beside man as the comrade of his soul, not the servant of his body” is one of Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s quotes about feminism (womenshistory.about.com). Charlotte was born on July 3, 1860 in Hartford Connecticut. Throughout Charlotte’s life she has been active in social reforms and mostly feminist movements. This activism is seen in all her writing, poetry, and short stories. Her most famous story is The Yellow Wallpaper even though it is not her first or longest work. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper through Dialogue, Symbols and Setting.

In order to analyze the characters and see the meaning of the story the dialogue between the characters has to be closely observed. Jane says “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (Gilman). In this quote Jane is talking about John and a little about the type of person he is and how that his personality resembles that of a misogynistic male. At first it seems like John is a nice and loving person but if you can realize the bias Jane has when she talks you can see more of the type of person John is. John doesn’t let her do anything and makes sure she doesn’t move until he gives her special directions to move. John once said “Bless her little heart! She shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let’s improve the shining hours be going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!” (Gilman). John seemed nice in what he said but he is actually being very condescending. He doesn’t take what Jane says seriously and makes fun of her saying that she is being sick whenever she wants to be. He ignores Jane’s plea not to leave because he doesn’t believe she gets worse when he’s not around.

After analyzing dialogue, the symbols presented in the story play an important role that describes the mood and gives hints as to what is happening and going to happen. Upon examining the wallpaper more Jane says “The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing” (Gilman). This is Jane giving a quick description of the wallpaper in the room she stays in. Jane examines the wallpaper sever times which puts a strange emphasis on it and connecting it to Jane in several ways. A couple of times in the story she has said that the wallpaper was horrible and disgusting so it’s obvious that the wallpaper has to represent something bad or is related to soothing bad that she sees in herself. Jane noticed that “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out” (Gilman). This is symbolism because there is no way wallpaper could actually have someone behind it shaking the pattern. The wallpaper is supposed to represent a type of cage that locks in whatever is behind the pattern. This figure behind the pattern represents her strong woman self shaking the bars and wanting to get out and stand up for herself.

The final important aspect of the story is the setting in which all the action takes place. “For the windows are barred for little children” This is a part of when Jane was giving a quick description of the room she was forced to stay in (Gilman). The barred windows and blank room sort of represented a prison that she was stuck in. Even though they don’t say the bars were on it for Jane, John treats Jane like a child most of the time and there are bars on the windows for children. The creepy room she stays in just has the eerie resemblance to her being locked up. The house they stay at also looks like one of those haunted houses that are secluded. It appears as if Jane is stuck in this house cut off from the rest of the world. “I lie here on this great immovable bed – it is nailed down” The bed in the Room that she stays in is nailed down (Gilman). This can be represented in many different ways. It could represent her position being stuck or immovable. The bed could also represent John who stays close to Jane and won’t change his mind or position as if he is nailed down.
Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper through Dialogue, Symbols and Setting. A lot about people’s minds and the different feminist criticisms and how people fall under them can be learned from this short story. The story shows that sexism is a very big problem and misogynistic males can cause some serious damage to and weak female personality. That every person has a strong female self in them but some people can’t express that.

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/c_p_gilman.htm





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