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The Importance of The Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Words: 1489 |

Pages: 3.5|

8 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

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Words: 1489|Pages: 3.5|8 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

The Importance of the Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper
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The essay discusses Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and the narrative perspective it employs. It delves into the importance of the first-person point of view in conveying the story's themes, particularly the portrayal of a woman's struggles in a patriarchal society. The narrator, a woman suffering from hysteria, is confined to a room with oppressive yellow wallpaper by her physician husband, John, who dismisses her concerns.

The essay highlights the unreliability of the first-person narrator, as she is depicted as less than truthful, emphasizing her husband's disbelief in her illness and her imaginative tendencies. However, the author uses this unreliability to immerse readers in the woman's perspective, making her more relatable despite her descent into madness. The narrative perspective shifts as the woman grows bolder with her insanity, portraying John as the tyrant he is.

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Table of contents

  1. The Yellow Wallpaper Outline
  2. Introduction
    The First-Person Perspective
    The Unreliable Narrator
    Diary Format and Gender Roles
    The Restrained Voice of the Woman
    Conclusion
  3. The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Example
  4. Works Cited

The Yellow Wallpaper Outline

Introduction

  • Overview of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Theme of a woman restrained by her husband
  • The use of first-person point of view to emphasize the woman's situation

The First-Person Perspective

  • Presentation of the story as a collection of journal entries
  • The woman's diagnosis and treatment by her husband
  • The woman's hidden diary and its significance
  • The implication of women's roles in society during that period

The Unreliable Narrator

  • The woman's lack of reliability as a narrator
  • The irony of her unreliability in the context of the story
  • How readers are forced to listen to her perspective despite its unreliability

Diary Format and Gender Roles

  • The use of a secret diary as a storytelling medium
  • The woman's inability to express herself openly
  • Subtle clues in the diary that reveal societal views on gender
  • The significance of the woman's name not being mentioned

The Restrained Voice of the Woman

  • How the first-person perspective highlights the woman's restraint
  • The portrayal of John as a dominant figure
  • The change in the woman's perspective as she descends into madness
  • The impact of the first-person perspective on the story's feminist themes

Conclusion

  • The importance of perspective in conveying the theme of women's oppression
  • How the first-person point of view allows readers to delve into the woman's psyche and societal context
  • The effectiveness of using perspective to create a feminist narrative in the story

The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Example

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman presents readers with the theme of a woman restrained by her more powerful husband. The first paragraph could be improved by adding a thesis statement that reflects the argument of the essay.

Close CommentsWhen a woman being treated for hysteria by her domineering spouse is forced to stay in a room with maddening yellow wallpaper, she is eventually driven insane, imagining a woman is trapped inside the pattern. She herself is trapped in a world where women are not taken seriously and are dismissed as hysterical. Gilman’s choice of a first person point of view - more specifically one of a woman writing in a diary - helps to emphasize the frightening situation of the woman in the story. The unique point of view allows readers to see not only the internal feelings of a woman essentially imprisoned, but also the implications of writing such a diary and the moments when the woman is holding back (or being held back).

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The story is presented in the first person with a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer. Forgoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment, the unnamed woman is forbidden from working and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air so that she can recuperate from what he calls a ‘temporary nervous depression-a slight hysterical tendency’, a diagnosis common to women in that period. The woman hides her journal from her husband and his sister the housekeeper, fearful of being accused of overburdening herself. The room’s openings are grilled to prevent children from climbing through them, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, though she and her husband have access to the rest of the house and its adjoining estate. The author depicts the effect of under stimulation on the narrator’s mental health and her deterioration into psychosis.The paragraph could be improved by providing evidence or examples to support the claim.

Close Comments With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed with the pattern and colour of the wallpaper. Towards the end of the story, she imagines there are women creeping behind the patterns of the wallpaper and comes to believe she is one of them. Eventually, she locks herself in the room, now the only place she feels safe, refusing to leave when the summer ends. The paper was written during in the early to mid-nineteenth century. During this time, domestic ideology positioned women as spiritual and moral leaders in their households. Isolation was the dominant theme that made women take control of their homes.

It must be admitted that there is a problem with having a first person narrator in a work of fiction. A certain degree of reliability is lost when readers only hear one side of the story, especially when it’s impossible to tell if that one side of the story is even true. Gilman certainly sets up the narrator of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” to be less than perfectly truthful. Soon after the story opens, the narrator says of her husband John, “You see he does not believe I am sick!” (Gilman 1670) Later she is described as a woman with an “imaginative power and habit of story-making” (1672). And by the end of the story when the narrator believes there is a woman inside the wallpaper, the reader knows she is not speaking from an objective point of view. However, Gilman actually uses this unreliability of the narrator to her advantage. A key part of this story is the fact that this woman is trapped in this situation because her husband won’t listen to her - she’s hysterical, and moreover, a woman in 1892.The paragraph should be revised to provide more context about the "rest cure" and why it was thought to be effective.

Close Comments She begs him to move to a different room without the yellow wall-paper, but he tells her not to “give way to such fancies” (1672). Gilman takes this concept and turns it on its head, plunging the reader into a story told by someone who nobody listens to. The reader is forced to listen. Even as she descends into madness, the reader stays with her and listens to her internal thoughts. She might not be reliable, but she becomes relatable when the reader hears her point of view. Through her telling of things, the antagonist John becomes the more unreliable one in the story, the one who is feeding his wife lies, even though in the world the story takes place in, John is a “physician of high standing” (1670) and his word is the one that matters! But Gilman expertly causes readers to believe the hallucinating woman over her doctor husband, simply through point of view.

To fully understand the importance of perspective in this story, a reader must consider the medium through which it is being told: in a diary. Not only that, but a secret diary. There are implications to having such a diary, because the woman’s husband will not allow her to write. When he or his sister comes into the room, the narrator must hide it. This aspect of the point of view is important because what the narrator is telling the reader is something she cannot say aloud. “I would not say it to a living soul, of course,” she writes, “but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind” (Gilman 1670). These words are trapped within the pages of a diary - “dead paper” - just as the woman is trapped in the wallpaper, and just as the narrator is trapped in her marriage.This diary format also allows readers little glimpses into the way genders were viewed at this time, but from a woman’s perspective. There are subtleties in the things she writes that portray men as the dominant (and domineering) members of society. For example, the narrator observes that “The paint and paper look as if a boys’ school had used it” (Gilman 1671). She says this because it is “stripped off in great patches” (1671) and looking tattered and abused. The narrator does not consciously realize she is doing so, but mentioning this offers readers insight into the way she views the opposite sex: as destructive. She sees something destroyed and automatically assumes boys did it - and by the end of the story, her mental health is destroyed because of the man in her life.The paragraph could be improved by providing evidence or examples to support the claim that the rest therapy changed the narrator's sense of reality.

Close Comments

Another subtle clue into the gender roles in this story is in the fact that the woman’s name is never mentioned. Usually in a story, the more important characters are given names. Because it’s told from her point of view, hers is never discovered. Yet John’s name is mentioned 45 times in this short story. It is scattered everywhere, emphasizing his importance and his hold on her life. In fact, this constant talk of John contributes greatly to the voice of the speaker. Her train of thought is often interrupted with but John this and but John that. A perfect example of this follows: “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus - but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad” (Gilman 1670). This single sentence illustrates the relationship between the two. In the first part are the woman’s thoughts. But these thoughts are always subdued by her husband’s prescriptions and advice. Ultimately, in this father-knows-best society, they affect the way she perceives her own opinions. She values his above her own, and adopts them, thinking perhaps he is right, as shown in the final clause of that sentence.

In this story (at least in the beginning of it before she goes insane), the first person perspective shows the restraint of the woman, reflecting the way she is restrained by her husband. Going even further than all the but Johns in the narrative, the woman writes with a style that is reticent and self-conscious; she keeps herself in check and reflects on any “rebellion” she might feel, like when she says, “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 1671). She dismisses her own thoughts as unimportant, making excuses for them, because in her life she has become accustomed to being dismissed. She thinks there is no way to justify her feelings other than blaming it on her illness. After all, that’s what her husband does. Another part that highlights this dismissiveness is when she says, “I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim” (1672), referring to wanting to move to a room that would make her less uncomfortable. John is constantly referred to as “dear,” while she is the “unreasonable” and “silly” one. “It is so hard to talk with John about my case,” she says, “because he is so wise, and because he loves me so” (1675). The reader can tell he is the antagonist in the story, but the irony is that she portrays him as the “good guy.” Later in the story, however, the perspective shows that the woman is becoming less restrained in her writing, having grown bold with insanity. She starts to portray John as the tyrant he is. She admits she is “a little afraid of [him]” (1677). And at the very end, she no longer thinks of him as the wise, dear husband at all. She even refers to him in a diminutive manner as she creeps around the room in the climax - “It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!” she declares (1680).

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Had the story been told from a third person perspective, the reader would not be able to gain such insight into the subtleties of the woman’s view of her situation. Her restrained voice would not be apparent, and the story would lack the dramatic implications of the secret diary. Had it been told from the point of view of another character - John’s or his sister’s - the woman’s insanity would be the central theme, as opposed to her being subdued by her spouse. The first person point of view is crucial to developing this theme. In “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” Gilman uses perspective to create an important feminist work that examines women’s issues from a woman’s point of view.

Works Cited

  1. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter Eighth Edition. Baym, Nina, et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2013. 1669-1681. Print.
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Expert Review
Overall, the essay has a clear focus on the interpretation of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the narrator's treatment by her husband. The essay presents a good understanding of the historical context surrounding the story, particularly in regards to the treatment of women during the 19th century. The organization of the essay is relatively clear, with an introduction that sets up the focus of the essay and paragraphs that provide evidence to support the author's argument.

Cite this Essay

The Importance of the Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper. (2021, October 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-madwomans-perspective-examining-point-of-view-in-the-yellow-wallpaper/
“The Importance of the Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper.” GradesFixer, 28 Oct. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-madwomans-perspective-examining-point-of-view-in-the-yellow-wallpaper/
The Importance of the Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-madwomans-perspective-examining-point-of-view-in-the-yellow-wallpaper/> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
The Importance of the Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Oct 28 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-madwomans-perspective-examining-point-of-view-in-the-yellow-wallpaper/
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