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Desire For Freedom in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper

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“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1899. One of the major themes is the cultural perception of women during this time. This short story is semi-autobiographical in the sense that Gilman went to the doctor that is mentioned in the story. She had similar struggles and feelings to the narrator of this story who is facing the controlling nature of her husband. While women of this time were trying to be kept in their private and domestic sphere, it left women feeling hopeless and full of depression. Because of this, Gilman may have been prompted to write this story to help express her feelings and also bring awareness to society about how some women were feeling. Through Gilman’s use of symbols, she is able to convey that women are being suppressed and only want to achieve freedom from their social bondage.
This story is about a physician, John, who, after seeing his wife has acquired a “nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency,” takes her to a summer “vacation” home to let her rest and recover from her pressing illness. (Gilman, 1899) After being put in what seems to be a nursery, the narrator becomes fixated on the yellow wallpaper that envelops the room. At first she describes it as meaningless and unimportant but soon she becomes obsessed with the shapes that begin to appear on the paper. John and his sister Jennie observe the narrator and think her condition is improving because of the rest she is getting and the fact that the narrator is not allowed to do anything that will induce more nervous behaviors. After her obsession with the wallpaper reaches a climax, the narrator locks herself in her room. She then begins to creep around the room, rubbing against t...


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...aper” was probably a shock for many people of this time period. Society viewed women who wanted to express their ideas of a culture in which women had rights, as hysterical. Gilman was even treated by a physician because she had become depressed by her lack of opportunities in society. Women were thrown into a state of depression because they thought their lives were lacking an important aspect. Gilman was able to express her thoughts and emotions, and in doing so, she made great strives to bring to light the oppressions that women were facing during this time. Through this expression, she was able to break through the paper and the bondage of society that kept women silent in their domestic sphere.




Works Cited

Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 2011. Print.


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