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Caught in the Yellow Wallpaper

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Caught in the Yellow Wallpaper

 
     "The pattern is torturing. You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you."

 

As her madness progresses the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper becomes increasingly aware of a woman present in the pattern of the wallpaper. She sees this woman struggling against the paper's "bars". Later in her madness she imagines there to be many women lost in its "torturing" pattern, trying in vain to climb through it. The woman caught in the wallpaper seems to parallel the narrator's virtual imprisonment by her well-meaning husband. While the narrator's perception of the wallpaper reveals her increasing madness, it effectively symbolizes the struggle of women who attempt to break out of society's feminine standards.

 

The narrator writes furtively in her room, having to hide her writing from her family. They feel that her only road to recovery is through total R & R, that she should not have to lift a finger, let alone stimulate a single neuron in her female brain. While she appreciates their concern she feels stifled and bored. She feels that her condition is only being worsened by her lack of stimulus, but it is not simply boredom that bothers her. She is constantly feeling guilty and unappreciative for questioning her family's advice. This causes her to question her self-awareness and her own perception of reality. "I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus; but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad." She also faults...


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... it. The pattern also represents the limits society places on women and the resistance of society to women, such as her, who are trying to break free.

 

Works Cited and Consulted

Lipman-Blumen, Jean. Gender Roles and Power. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1984.

Mitchell, Weir S. "Wear and Tear, or Hints for the Overworked." Charlotte Perkins Gilman: "The Yellow Wallpaper." Ed. Dale M. Bauer. Boston: Belford Books, 1998. 134-141.

Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. New York: Greenwood P, 1995.

Roland, Alan, and Barbara Harris. Career and Motherhood: Struggles for a New Identity. New York: Human Sciences P, 1979.

Welter, Barbara. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." The American Family in Social Historical Perspective. Ed. Michael Gordon. New York: St. Martin's P, 1978. 373-392.


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