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How Is Your Reading of the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Informed by a Feminist Critical Approach and Understanding of Socio-Historic Context?

  • Date Submitted: 10/07/2014 01:14 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 47.1 
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On an initial reading, the yellow wallpaper is a story chronicling a   woman's slow decent into madness. However, the story from a feminist perspective is clearly a critique of the treatment, position and expectations of   women in the 1800s. Through the story, Gilman expresses her own feminist belief of how women should be seen as the equals of men, while encapsulating the spirit of the rising women's rights movement happening at the time.

The yellow wallpaper is not just about a woman but a 'captive' woman becoming mad. Captive, because although she is not ill-treated (physically) as such, it is obvious that the narrator is being kept in the room with the 'horrid' yellow wallpaper against her wishes. The narrator mentions how she had begged to be moved downstairs or o at least have the offensive wallpaper removed , but was denied by her 'informed' husband who claimed that he knew best as he was a physician, and that she should just follow his directions, dismissing her by calling her a 'silly little goose'. This is a classic example of how women were seen in the 1800s: inferior to their husbands and not allowed to make their own choices. Not only does John 'physically' imprison the narrator by keeping her in the room, he "hates to have her write a word" and thus confines her mentally as well by limiting how she can exercise her mind. In this aspect, John can be said to be the stereotypical 1800s male; self assured and controlling, while the narrator embodies the women of the era, confined and suppressed, desperate for freedom from oppression and in want of a creative outlet.

On the other hand, she feels obliged to stay in her husband’s care: “he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more”.   No matter how much she is repressed she believes herself to be 'ungrateful', an opinion which has surely been the result of a upbringing with a teaching of dependency upon males. This highlights just how innately Patriarchal society...


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