The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman who is very creative, but her talents are being suppressed by her husband. In his efforts to crush her, to stick to the societal norms and values, the woman suffers mental torture. The husband is more concerned with the societal norm than the physical well-being of the wife. She loses sanity in the struggle to become independent and overcome the idea of the husband suppressing her thoughts. The husband is seen torturing the woman, and all her husband wants her to do is to rest and sleep. Since she didn't want to believe in what the husband was telling her, she started rebelling against him. To some point, she says "I must put this away, he hates to have me write a word (Charlotte 14) This is because the husband never wanted to see her writing, though she was a blessed writer. The fact that the husband does not allow her to write, makes her depression worse. In some part, she says, "He takes all care from me, and I feel so basely ungrateful not to value it more. He took me in his arms and called me a blessed goose", (Mara 10), a clear indication that the husband is trying to control her life entirely.
Throughout history, the relationship between females and male have been under severe scrutiny. A difference in gender roles has been the constant point of investigation in almost all areas. Traditionally, a man had been viewed as a being holding an authoritative position, a father, a protector and a breadwinner of the family. Women on the other side have been defined and confined to the household and the society at large. Charlotte, who is an American writer, is entirely against this whole idea. She was an active proponent of women's suffrage and their hindrances within the society which prevented women from achieving independence. She strongly urged women to go after serious interests rather than staying confined within domestic circles.
The writer is not happy with the idea that men are very superior creatures, and women have no authority at all. When asked why she decided to write this book, she says she intended to save people from being driven crazy, because, at some time, she was driven mad by her husband. For many years, she suffered continuous breakdown which at some point was tending to melancholia. In the third year of the same struggle, she visits a nervous specialist, who is well known in the country. In his words, the specialist said, "live as domestic life as far as possible (Haskoli Islands 8). This was way back 1887. She listened and obeyed the specialist.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman escapes from this mental torture and becomes a free woman. By this, she is encouraged to write a book, The yellow wallpaper. In the introduction, she gives a brief history of herself. She was born on the 3rd day of July 1860, a second born in a family of three. Charlotte had resolved earlier that she would not get married, due to the life they lived. She wanted to devote her whole life to writing and working, but she later got married to Charles Walter Stetson in the year 1884 after courting for two years. Within the first year, she bore a daughter. The marital life was not easy for her because of the different ideologies they had. She wanted to live a life free to work whereas Walter wanted a traditional life. This difference made her suffer severely, and after giving birth to the first daughter Katherine, she suffered from postnatal depression.
The depression was less severe when she was out for other duties, but immediately she was back for the house chores, it went a notch higher. Things grew worse until she was persuaded to go for the medical checkup. What followed was among the darkest points in her life when she felt she was almost losing her sanity: "I made a rag baby, hung it on a doorknob and played with it" she says. "She would crawl into remote closets and under beds" (Mara 13). The rest of the cure she was given by the doctor did not work but instead made things worse. She finally left and went to live in Pasadena where she started to write and lecture. She wrote on topics about women. Since her childhood, she had a determination that she would change her character, and it's the same determination that saw her through in Pasadena, which enabled her to structure her life and enlarged her knowledge. It is in this period that she wrote this book, the yellow wallpaper.
This book was meant to convey her feelings towards others and was meant for making her free, she says. Charlotte refused to term herself a feminist, but instead a humanist. She had a feeling that "the world was masculinist and she wished to restore an equitable balance." According to her, women were dependent on their husbands economically, and this hampered development. "The lesser position of the female in society impeded balance and hindered the optimal development of society" (Mara 15). She had a belief that "the emancipation of women would lead to freedom for all." Throughout Charlotte's life, her whole idea was for women to become independent of men. She wanted to empower women to become self-sufficient, people who can provide for themselves and stand on their own. Charlotte is also known for her evolutionary and historical position of women.
In the story, John, Charlotte's husband, represents the society in the mid and late 19th centuries. He is termed as a protagonist husband, who was dominant and authoritative in everything. The community is termed as a world of men, because of how John acted while staying with the writer. Men can have control over women, the same way John was. Besides, he is rational, very strict and factual. John, the protagonist, seems to have represented all women who were inferior and were suppressed by men. The protagonist is spotted repeating a rhetorical question severally, "but what is one to do?". This demonstrated how the husband and the society were trying to control Charlotte.
The yellow wallpaper is read in very many ways. It is evident how women are handled and viewed in society. Charlotte's husband is a figure who uses his authority over the wife, to confine her and take full control of her. Also, there is more to the story that apparently brings out male dominance. In her first diagnosis, a male specialist does it. She is also diagnosed by her husband and brother, both of whom are male physicians. In the story too, women suffer a lot in the hands of men. When the husband is at home, Charlotte cannot continue with her writing because she fears the husband, "she refrains from doing so when the husband is present" (Mara 16).
The yellow wallpaper is a sad story, and it wouldn't give pleasure to any reader going through it. Many lives have been touched by this story, and many more are being empowered to write such kinds of stories. Charlotte has empowered many women, and the idea women had about their inequality with men has changed. At personal levels, writing this story was the only most comfortable way for Charlotte to deal with this kind of depression. Through the whole writing process, she could cope with the feelings the depression had caused her. "Putting down in words what she had suffered during her postnatal psychosis was first of all her way of dealing with the past and coping with the feelings she had experienced" (Gilman 16). By writing this, she hoped to leave her depression and put all her focus on the future. She wanted to earn a living and build on her career. Besides, she wanted to make it clear to the readers how had felt, being treated in such a manner by a man. By making the readers aware of this, she hoped that people would better have an understanding of what depression is. At the same time, writing this story is the only sure way she could get back her sanity. The role that has been assigned to her as a feminist has also played a significant role in today's feminist interpretation.
Charlotte P.G Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper" 1913
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The yellow wallpaper. Penguin UK, 2015.Haskoli Islands. Behind The Wallpaper. The Feminist point of view in the story The Yellow Wallpaper May 2010
Mara V. B. The Yellow Wallpaper A Horror Story with a Feminist Touch. 20 August 2013
Charlotte P.G The Yellow Wallpaper
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