The Yellow Wallpaper

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“John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.”(Gilman) An unnamed narrator whose husband is a physician details her collections of journal entries. Charlotte Perkins Gilman had suffered several years of depression and her physician urged her to live to a more domestic lifestyle. Using reader response criticism, a reader can analyze “The Yellow Wallpaper” using the aspects of character, symbols, and setting.

To Begin with, Gilman uses the aspect of character within the short story. An example of this is the narrator. “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” (Gilman) John enjoys seeing her suffer because she is a woman. The narrator is going through nervous depression. John locks her in a room and she decides to write journal entries about the yellow wallpaper. Furthermore, the narrator also refers to John “I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wall-paper!” (Gilman) Again this shows that John thinks he is perfect and doesn’t take the narrator seriously.
To continue, the aspect of symbols is clear in the short story. Gilman uses a lot of symbolism while making a lot of comparisons with objects and colors. An example is the narrator talking about the yellow wallpaper. For example, 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 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.

Finally, the aspect of setting is also very important to “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Gilman uses setting throughout the short story for many purposes. One example is where the narrator says “There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when the cross lights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can almost radiation after, all—the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common centre and rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction.” (Gilman) She explains that she rarely sees sunshine in the room. “It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children and there are rings and things in the walls.” (Gilman) She had seen the room as big before but now she looks it as she is trapped within.
In conclusion, the aspects of character, symbols, and setting help the reader analyze “The Yellow Wallpaper” using reader response criticism. The story depicts the effect of confinement on the narrator's mental health, and her descent into psychosis. At the end of the story, as her husband John lies on the floor unconscious, she crawls over him, symbolically rising over him. This is interpreted as a victory over her husband, she loses her sanity in the process. One can learn not to let people control you and to be yourself.





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