A Feminist Critique of The Yellow Wallpaper

By , Oak Lawn, IL
Someone once said “A strong women is a women determined to do something that others are determined not to be done.” Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” through character, symbolism, and dialogue. “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is about a woman named Jane who is tied down by her husband John and society. Her husband makes her believe she is sick and locks her in a room. Eventually she goes crazy. She finally realizes that society shouldn’t hold her back and she can do what she wants. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” through character, dialogue and symbolism.


First off, a reader can analyze the story by using character. The main character in this story is the narrator. At the beginning of the story, a reader can see that she accepts that her husband is superior, and believes that his wants and needs are more important than her own. For example she says “I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already” (Gilman). During this time, women were supposed to please the men and stay at home and do house work, which is why the men were so controlling and took advantage of them. For example, when Jane wrote: “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (Gilman), she is proving that he is in control. Her husband, John, believes that men are superior over women. It is described in the story that John is basically stubborn and doesn’t truly care about Jane, for example, “He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well” (Gilman). He can talk the talk and pretend to be caring, but in the end it’s truly all for “his sake”. He would talk down to her and call her little child names like little goose or little girl. He would be in control of her life, but make her believe he was doing it out of love and because she was very sick.


Continuing on, the author uses dialogue to show how hard it was for the narrator to become her own person. The way John spoke to our narrator showed his true colors and what he truly thought about her as a person. John speaks to Jane in a way one would speak to a child. “Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose” (Gilman). No adult female should be spoken to like she is an infant. She is a grown adult who can speak and do things for herself. John speaks to her, and respects her, like she is a child. John also overanalyzes every move Jane makes. He acts as if he does it out of love, when really he is just trying to control her. He wants to be superior to the narrator ands make her believe everything he is doing to control her. “I got up softly and went to see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake.”“What is it, little girl?” he said. “Don’t go walking about like that—you’ll get cold” (Gilman). John doesn’t want her out of his sight, so it bothers him to see her walking around by herself. He talks down to her like a child again with he says little girl; she is his wife and should be able to do what she wants in their house. John then tries to make her believe he was caring about her out of love because he goes on to explain how she will be cold.


Lastly Gilman uses symbolism to show the way the narrator felt in the secluded room at the top of the house. The narrator talks about the color of the wallpaper. She said, “The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.” (Gilman) She notices the smallest details of the wallpaper and is psychotic about it. She sees all the patterns and tries to count them or notice how much they change. She continues to say “At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.” (Gilman) She feels she is secluded from everybody and feels lonely. The narrator is starting to realize that the pattern is like the outside world and every time the pattern becomes bars the women she sees is herself. She sees how society is holding her back and taking control of her life.


In conclusion, using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” through character, symbolism, and dialogue. This is important because back then females were looked down upon. The reader can analyze the story through three literary elements including characters, symbolism and dialogue. In today’s society, women have jobs and play the role of mother and wife. They do not have to be completely dependent on their husbands at all time. They can express opinions freely without being criticized by all of society.





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