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The Importance of Setting in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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    A review of the house itself suggests that an architectural hierarchy of privacy increases level by level. At first, the house seems to foster romantic sensibilities; intrigued by its architectural connotations, the narrator embarks upon its description immediately--it is the house that she wants to "talk about" (Gilman 11). Together with its landscape, the house is a "most beautiful place" that stands "quite alone . . . well back from the road, quite three miles from the village" (Gilman 11). The estate's grounds, moreover, consist of "hedges and walls and gates that lock" (Gilman 11). As such, the house and its grounds are markedly depicted as mechanisms of confinement--ancestral places situated within a legacy of control and supervision.

     These are the exterior apparatuses that create and enforce the bedroom as a monitoring device, structuring interior space by exceeding its very boundaries, expanding beyond the egresses of the household in an effort to maintain the interior/exterior polarity. The result is a privacy within the privacy of the home. The bedroom becomes the locus of what Wigley calls a "secret privacy;" it is its own interior wrought with overtones of mystery and intrigue (345).

     Because the bedroom in "The Yellow Wallpaper" veils both sexuality and the female body, and is involved in the production of secrets, the bedroom and the body are linked: both are secret, and both contain secrets. Associated with connotations of private, intimate, enclosed space, the bedroom ultimately suggests other such spaces. The bedroom becomes a metaphor for the female body and makes the body manageable, controllable. Writing about the body and secrecy, Ludmilla Jordanova notes:

Veiling implies secrecy. Wome...


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...iction. 17 (1989): 193-201.

Haney-Peritz, Janice. "Monumental Feminism and Literature's Ancestral House: Another Look at 'The Yellow Wallpaper'" Women's Studies. 12 (1986): 113-128.

Kasmer, Lisa. "Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper': A Symptomatic Reading." Literature and Psychology. 36, (1990): 1-15.

Jordanova, Ludmilla. Sexual Visions: Images of Gender in Science and Medicine between the 18th and 20th Centuries. London: Harrester Wheatsheaf, 1989.

Mulvey, Laura. "Pandora: Topographies of the Mask and Curiosity." Sexuality and Space. Ed. Beatriz Colomina. Princeton: Princeton Papers on Architecture, 1992. 53-71.

------. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Screen. 16 (1975): 6-18.

Wigley, Mark. "Untitled: The Housing of Pleasure." Sexuality and Space. Ed. Beatriz Colomina. Princeton Papers on Architecture, 1992. 327-389.

 


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