Literary Analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

The short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman portrays values and social traditions of people in marriage life and their personal relations. Gilman symbolically portrays that women suffer from psychological disorders caused by lack of love, care, and a constant pressure of secondary roles and personal unimportance in social life.  The consequence of this splitting is the evisceration of the maternal as a category, in order that women in such a reduced role serve as a stable mirror in terms of which men can preserve the distinct integrity of masculine character. Thesis The subordination in marriage is used as a mirror of social problems and low social position of women in community.

From the very beginning, make characters demonstrate dominance and excessive power over women and their needs. The main character of the short story, a nameless woman, claims that her husband, a physician, does not take into account her complaints and emotional sufferings supposing that it is nothing more than “temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency” (Gilman 941). Gilman shows that this was the usual situation for many women to be neglected by physicians and their relatives. John’s relation to this fact of social power produces an agonizing dialectic, which Gilman establishes in terms of two sets of themes. John demonstrates the power of male to stop his wife’s complaints. John holds resolutely to the conventional lines of the marriage plot and produces authority out of a distanced and ironic critique of women diseases. Through the relations inside the marriage, Gilman portrays that women ‘invented” their emotional illnesses in order to attract attention and sympathy of other relatives. The nameless wife describes that her husband does not treat her like other patients supposing that psychological illness is of minor importance. She depicts:   “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him” (Gilman 943). It is possible to say that male physicians prefer to find any accuse not to treat psychological disorders seeing them unimportant and even “imaginary”. The secondary role in society and subordinate position in marriage makes the woman a real victim of social traditions and prevents her from needs fulfillment and personal development. She has to escape from realities of life she cannot change.

The subordination is marriage is evident in relations between a wife and a husband. The narrator says "So I will let it alone and talk about the house. … It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village.” (Gilman 941).Private memory in general will not conform to the contents of cultural fictions of proper maternity and paternity; private memory, in fact, may contain perverse and disturbing contents that work to undo its sentimental rewriting by culture. positive desire seems to be phobically rendered as a monstrous impossibility, as opposed to the intellectualized abstraction of the previous scene, yet the insects, in addition to serving as an appropriate naturalist detail, suggest a desiring restlessness. On both the levels of masculinity and authorship, the image of the psychological disease arguably reflects and even exacerbates conflicts that also make it necessary, and hence it points to the depth and complexity of those conflicts for Gilman. Just as the disease itself seems marked by the gender conflicts and ambiguities of its production, by symbolically donning the letter Gilman acquires a visible mark of his alienation from masculinity. This alienation derives both from his identification with the femininity of feeling and from his connection to the ambiguous feminization of literary production, and it seems to predate his fortuitous finding of the scarlet letter, given his often bitter invocation of Salem's malaise from his introduction's opening pages. The imposition of a gendered understanding upon the narrators’ complex being in this part of the story’s converts this being into a new psychological form that can be absorbed without threatening the process of her husband’s dominance in marriage. It is this crucial process of forming the feminine for use that the final solution to forget everything and stop her emotional sufferings, by placing her in a voluntarily occupied domestic realm, one that obscures the violence of male culture's power to refigure the feminine to nurture and protect masculine identity.

The disease itself is not identical to the empowering potential of a private, domestic femininity. On the contrary, if it retains its heat or passion even in commercial settings, it comes to Gilman through the emotional sufferings of the woman.  The narrator describes her emotional states as “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition” (Gilman 942). The goodness of his domestic scene of writing, then, may lie not in its ordinariness that Gilman unconditionally and totally opposes. Rather, it rescues him from the disintegrating effects of his ambivalent perception of such a world--from identification, titillation, and resentment. If women in public, and particularly writing women, generate such conflict for Gilman, the hostility leveled at other people finally seems only the more remarkable. Neither can the domestic be securely sequestered from the conflicts of the broader social world. Gilman sentimental sense of the rightness of the maternal presence at his fireside, a rightness that would be somehow disfigured even by the presence of surprise, suggests as its counterpart the wrongness of women in a variety of other complex, real-world roles, especially of women who have entered the literature. At the end of the work, the narrator questions: “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!” (Gilman 953). Underlying this passage's dominating unease with women outside of the domestic sphere are suggestions of considerable ambivalence and conflict, evident, for example, in the mixture of allure and repulsion. Though unique symbols such as yellow wallpapers and the home setting, reflected personal self in relation to the others, masculine and feminine, adult and child life perception, Gilman portrays differences and social problems of a family limited by traditions and values of community. It is significant, also, that this process of subordination completes itself only as a personal conclusion of the main character.

In sum, subordination of women in marriage is vividly portrayed through unique themes such as rejection of women by male physicians and negligence towards women’s problems and health concerns.  On the one hand, such discourses come to have substantial power in relation to social behavior; on the other, they never fully succeed in putting women in her social place or alleviating the anxiety of its otherness to the self. For masculine identity to be secure, the nature of its constitution must be forgotten. The splitting in this short story is not so much between the personal; and the natural as between that which must circulate as an essentially masculine power and the women needs in marriage.  The acute irony of the situation in marriage is that the husband-physician who has to take care of his beloved wife unable to recognize serious illness and psychological problem. Instead, he pleases his wife’s nuisances and treats his using yellow wallpaper, but everything the wife needs is understanding and love.

Order now

Related essays