Saturday, January 15, 2011

Critical Essay on The Yellow Wallpaper

Critical Essay on The Yellow Wallpaper

In the story The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a woman tells her story. The story is told by a narrator in the first person. She is diagnosed with temporary nervous depression, which is actually postpartum depression. The setting is in the country around the early 1900's. The house they are renting is a colonial mansion that has not all been kept up. She is a very repressed woman by her husband. He is a very domineering husband. She spends most of her time in her bedroom where there is hideous yellowing wallpaper. The symbolic points in The Yellow Wallpaper are all quite vivid. They really make you think about your own marriage if you are in a marriage where one or the other is very dominant.

She talks about crying all the time. "I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time," (Gilman 473.) This is classic of postpartum depression. When she says this you can tell that everything makes her cry, and it makes her cry often. She of course doesn't want anyone to see her crying because she wants everyone to think she is getting better.

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Many people are as different as day and night. John was. She writes about the how the wallpaper is as different as day and night, but she also writes about how if she stands up for herself or her thoughts, John is the same way. "On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind," (Gilman 476.) Here she is talking about the wallpaper. "I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked a time with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word," (Gilman 476.) Here she was obviously talking about John. She had began to tell how she wanted to go home and he said no. She was going to plead her case more when she wrote this line.

She then uses symbolism to compare the pattern of the wallpaper to how she feels about the pattern of her life. "At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars," (Gilman 476-477.) She is confined to her room so much that she feels that she is behind bars.

She feels as though she is being strangled as a person, and her life is being snuffed out. "But nobody could climb through that pattern -- it strangles, so," (Gilman 478.) Here she is once again writing about the wallpaper, but she is actually talking about her own life. She felt she was being strangled and being held down from enjoying life the way she should.

When she first starts telling him how nervous the wallpaper made her she comments that "I suppose John was never nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wallpaper," (Gilman 471.) This is ironic because laughter is a nervous trait. People laugh to try and hide their nervousness.

She starts seeing a ghost woman appearing through the windows during the day and in the wallpaper at night. This ghost has the freedom to wherever she wants whenever she wants. The narrator want the same freedom. By watching the ghost, she is getting better. She eats better and is quieter than she was before. This is exactly what her husband said she needed to get better. In the end, she locks herself in her room. She has hidden the key outside. She wants her husband to listen to what she is saying, even if it is just about where the key is located. She has to tell him several times that is under the rock outside, but eventually he listens. She feels as though she has conquered the world.

This story is full of emotion. And the tone is very sad. You actually feel sorry for both of them in some way or another. She is great at stoicism. She doesn't want anyone to see all or any of her pain. The main symbolic act of the story is when she is ripping off the wallpaper. It is like she is gaining freedom and strength herself. The tone is very close to speech. You could actually put yourself in the bedroom with The Yellow Wallpaper.

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