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A Feminist Critique of The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Yellow Wallpaper is about a wife who is looked down upon by her husband and society. Jane, the main character, was sick and was told to live a plain, life. Being a regular stay at home wife wasn’t something she wanted to do. She went against this and continued to write and tried to break free of the chains society had latched on to her. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” by using dialogue, character, and symbols.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the author creates feminist criticism by using dialogue between John and his wife Jane. The dialogue shows male “dominance” coming through. John belittles his wife by treating her like a child “What is it, little girl? Don’t go walking like that—you’ll get cold” (Gilman). John says that to Jane when he sees her walking outside. Treating Jane like a kid by using such text shows that he does not give her much freedom. He uses words that make her sound immature. He acts as if he is her parent and believes she is not capable of taking care of herself. John also calls his wife, “blessed little goose” (Gilman). Almost laughing in her face, John belittles Jane as adults do to children. Using words such as “little” paint childish features onto Jane’s character. This shows John does not take her very seriously because of how much he looks down upon her. The dialogue found in “The Yellow Wallpaper” between the couple greatly shows feminist criticism.
The character of Jane is criticized throughout the short story. She is trapped in this house with a husband of no patience and understanding. Society is keeping her closed in from being herself, her husband is holding her back from the world, and the wall paper is keeping her from breaking out. John sees her as a burden (Gilman). He hides her in a house where society can’t see for the fear it will taint his “appearance”. John does not know how much she really suffers though. He knows there is no reason to suffer. The nervousness weighs on her and affects her to do her “duties” (Gilman). John cares for her with tough love, but acts as if she’s a child. He tells her she is fine and lets her suffer only to try and make her better. Living in this new house with the wall paper closing her in is keeping her behind the bars of society. The only way to get over her sickness is to break free of the shadow John has over her.
Lastly, the symbols in “The Yellow Wallpaper” are used throughout the story to give clues to the feminist criticism. The yellow wall paper, the main symbol, is in the house of John and Jane. The author gives the wall paper double meaning by not only describing the paper on the walls, but the views of society and her husband. Jane gives a vivid description of the wall paper, “It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream” (Gilman). By this she refers to the way she is treated by both her husband and society. How she’s looked down upon for being sick, and how John sees himself as being so superior to her. Everyone shoots down all of her ideas, and walks all over her with no respect or remorse. The symbol of the wallpaper also holds the idea of the woman behind the paper. Jane refers to herself as that woman. The narrator says, “She just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard” (Gilman). The woman behind the paper shaking the bars represents her will to break free from her husband’s restraint on her and society’s perception. The symbols used in “The Yellow Wallpaper” give hidden meaning to feminist criticism.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” can be analyzed by using dialogue, character, and symbols. The meaning of this story is to show that woman don’t have to be dependent. Females can have their own voice and will power to do what they want. To forget about what others think and do what is loved. If one doesn’t care what others think then they can’t bring them down. Breaking free is only the beginning from some.





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