The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman

Prepare and submit a term paper on The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman. Your paper should be a minimum of 1500 words in length. Though this story has been included in the psychological thriller genre and horror story genre by many, when viewed in the backdrop of the socio-political and literary context and also the life of the author, this story surely can be included as a remarkable member of feminist literature genre ( Rkhuber. Showalter). The core image that runs through this story, and from which it derives its title is the yellow wallpaper and this itself can be viewed as a symbol of an all-pervasive and suffocating male-dominated society (Gilman). Wallpaper can be representative of many things, especially in literary imagery. It can represent an environment, a mood, a cover that hides something within, and even a mirror of the emotions of the protagonist. In this short story, the yellow wallpaper initially functions as a hostile environment in which the reader is introduced to the protagonist, then it starts to transform into a reflection of the mental state of the protagonist and towards the end, it is seen as the wall of a cage in which the protagonist gets trapped in and eventually breaks free of (Gilman). This kind of metaphoric presentation of the wallpaper correlates with the feminist notion of a patriarchal society that serves as the environment for the oppression of women, unconsciously gets accepted by women as their own mental reflection, and at some point in the future, has to be torn down by women themselves who realize that it is a cage that entraps them. It is the famous feminist dictum, ‘personal is political’ that gets substantiated by this story. The narrator, a woman, is living a life completely based on the prescriptions, both medical and personal, of a man, a physician, her husband (Gilman 1). She also has a history of living under the domination of her brother, who also happens to be a physician. The very fact that the two men in her life are men of science indicate the authority of the scientific/rational/objective male world (Gilman 1). The experiential/subjective and oppressed female realm is a contrasting theme that becomes the center of the narrative as it progresses. The self-talk that gets documented in the journals kept by the female protagonist has a fragmented and highly subjective format and content that moves beyond reason and common sense (Gilman). It is highly personal. This is similar to how female experiences and struggles often seem irrational and illogical to mainstream society. There are many direct allusions in the text to the sheer authority and power exercised on the female protagonist by her husband (Gilman 1-10). For example, in the first few sentences themselves, the heroine told the reader that, “John (the husband) laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage” (Gilman 1). She is more comfortable with dead paper than a live man (Gilman 1). She further has said that she always has to fake self-control before her husband so that she does not have to endure his patronizing reprimand (Gilman 1). The repeated mention of how the husband of the female protagonist disapproves of her writing down one’s inner feelings is a metaphor of how the male world suppresses female expressions. Though the female narrator readily agrees with the husband’s orders regarding her writing, the way she continually and secretly disobeys his orders, suggests a constant craving for freedom (Gilman 1-10). This sense of freedom is satirically depicted in the form of some affliction, some weakness, in the heroine (Gilman 1-3). In spite of this, the message that the reader gets is that the heroine is a sensitive and creative person caught in the boredom of the mundane, non-imaginative world of the men, who are born to rule.

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