The Yellow Wallpaper

Even until the 1900s, women were still viewed only as housewives. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkin-Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper: through character, dialogue, and symbols. It is the story of a woman who felt that women deserved more than what they received. She kept her thoughts in a diary because people thought she was crazy for having these thoughts. Even those close to her felt this way. Their actions as individual characters represented a bigger message that dealt with society as a whole. Their roles were bigger than early readers of this story realized.
The characters in the story were given specific meanings. There was John who represented the male opinion of women’s rights, Jennie who represented women who accepted their role in a male society, and the narrator who represented the women who wanted more. Men did not feel women had any special place in society except being housewives, and they need to keep the women in order. In the story, the narrator said, “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (pg.2). Then men try to act like they know everything. They feel they need to tell women what to do to keep order. Also, the narrator was not the only female in the story to feel that they were being mistreated. The story stated, “I caught Jennie with her hand on it once” (pg.6). The ‘it’ in the quote refers to the yellow wallpaper which signified society’s hold on women’s individuality. Even Jennie who represented the women who accepted their roles thought of rebelling from her role in society. The difference is that Jennie gave up and accepted her role. There are more specific instances in the essay to help justify this analysis.
In many quotes in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkin-Gilman expresses all the sexism that takes place. She expresses how women weren’t even allowed to think out of place. At one point John, who represents a male society, says, “I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind!” (pg.9). He feels her thoughts which differ from society’s ways will make her seem crazy. Any female was frowned up in that time period. The dialogue shows exactly how men viewed female individuality. It may have been difficult to make a difference, but it was possible. At the end of the story the narrator says, “I’ve got out at last” (pg.17). She was finally able to escape her boundaries. The point was she that she was able to overcome society’s restraints, and be her own person. However, at the time this was written, Charlotte Perkin-Gilman couldn’t directly state that. She had to use symbols to illustrate her message. She needed to disguise the meaning to avoid being called insane herself.
Most often symbols are used to represent something bigger. For example, a rainbow may represent happiness. “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a whole was set to represent society’s strangle on women’s equality. Individual symbols which was the most important symbol, there were more specific features. It mentions that, “there is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down” (pg.4). The design specifically describes how the design, representing a struggle, completely opposes anyone who tries to change the system. There was a strong disapproval of change. Other than the wallpaper there were other symbols. Daylight and nighttime were also included. It was explained that, “and most women do not creep by daylight” (pg.13). Nighttime was seen as a secretive time when people could be themselves. Women could act the way they wanted, but in daylight they had to play the housewife persona. These symbols showed how women felt, how they wanted to feel, and how they could react. Their opportunities were limited no matter how much they wanted change. It was not as easy as they would have liked.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” shows how poorly women were treated compared to me. By using feminine criticism, the reader can analyze this story though character, dialogue, and symbols. Women were not given a fair share. Even today women are not treated the same. For example, in the work place men may receive a higher pay than women for the same job. The endless struggle of inequality continues to be present in numerous places. Change is not easy, but it makes a difference.





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