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Feminine Oppression in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Women have always struggled to gain attention from men as well as equality with them. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" has a dominant theme of feminine oppression. It is a symbolic work of literature because women in the era in which this story was published were treated in much the same way as the narrator was on a daily basis. Male dictatorship over women is rampant within the illness and treatment of the unnamed narrator, the characters in the story, and the many symbols that serve to confine the main character. They all work fluidly together to create a more tangible conclusion. A stand had to be made in order for women to achieve equality with men. Standing up to a man, however, was not permissible in nineteenth century America. This story epitomizes women slowly gaining trust and appreciation, even understanding.

Now obsolete, the rest cure, was an infamous panacea for any psychological illness one could dream up. While some men were subjected to the treatment, it was women who were mainly victimized by this so called cure that entailed "seclusion, massage, immobility, and overfeeding" (Wagner-Martin.) This solution implies that someone suffering from mental anxiety would recover after being imprisoned to a bed for several months with very little association from friends or family. Not being able to come and go or converse freely with the outside world would be difficult enough, but these individuals were "absolutely forbidden to "work"(Gilman 71.) This meant that any classification of creativity or mental strain was prohibited. The limitations put on the narrators imagination, by her husband, drove her into the depths of insanity, rather than pulling her out. Forced to the brink of stagnant hibernation,...


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... and the Politics of Color in America." Feminist Studies 15.3 (Fall 1989): 415-441. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 201. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 Oct. 2011.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. "The Yellow Wallpaper: Overview." Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle Watson. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 Oct. 2011.

Feldstein, Richard. "Reader, Text, and Ambiguous Referentiality in 'The Yellow Wall-Paper.'." The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on "The Yellow Wallpaper". Ed. Catherine Golden. New York: Feminist Press, 1992. 307-318. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 201. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 Oct. 2011.

Scott, Firor Anne. The Southern Lady From Pedestal to Politics 1830-1930. Virginia: Free University Press of Virginia, 1995. Print.


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