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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, we are introduced to many ambiguous and oppressed characters. The protagonist is envisioned as a calm and collected woman, living with her husband John whom was a physician taking care of her “manic” symptoms. The use of imagery in Gilman’s short story establishes an isolated and psychologically corrupt atmosphere regarding the emotions of women with postpartum depression in the late 19th century. The reference to the wallpaper expresses the protagonist’s imprisonment and the house which was seen as her prison. Women with any abnormal symptoms in this era were viewed as psychologically insane and usually prescribed bed rest, which famous Dr. Weir Mitchell a physician prescribed in this era. This essay will analyze how Charlotte Perkins Gilman conveys her point of view on gender roles and oppression of women in The Yellow Wallpaper.
During the late 19th century, women were treated as submissive compared to men, and this short story proves to us that John’s character was dominant and controlling. The narrator vocalizes that “she sometimes fancies that in her 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 make me feel bad. So, I will let it alone and talk about the house”. This passage confirms to the reader the segregation and gender roles present in the short story. This story fluctuates but overall has a strong base regarding how the protagonist was treated. Gilman does not clearly provide us with the protagonist’s name which might be due to the fact that this woman could be referred to anyone, such as, family and friends. This passage conveys a warning against Doctor Weir Mitchell and the medical interpretations and technology in that era, which leads to false accusation and misogynistic oppression against women with any mental disorders.
The exaggerated amount of oppression and neglect the narrator receives eventually makes her angry and start to yearn freedom. The imagery in this passage provides us with insight on how the protagonist felt in her condition and the opposition she faces in society. She believes that if there were any type of stimulus to trigger the fall of this opposition she would be in better health. But since no one acknowledges these symptoms as depression, but as mania, leaves the character with her hands tied. This passage continues with the protagonist mentioning that her husband John believes that talking about her problems will leave her more damaged, which is why the protagonist suppresses her emotions by talking about her home. The way she describes her home makes you question if she is happy or trapped. She expresses that “the color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.” which the protagonist refers to the wallpaper in her room to be causing her nightmares and keeping her restless. Gilman’s interpretation of the protagonist resembles the repulsive yellow wallpaper in her room and she refers to the wallpaper as “torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than brother-they must have had preservice as well as hatred.”
Women in this time in age were limited in expressing speech and thought because of their lack of power and rights, they had to mentally succumb to accommodate the traits of their sex. Which was a factor enabling their healing and recognition of this mental illness. Mental illness was not very commonly recognized in this era and have not been fully understood until the 1950’s, when Dr. Edinburgh was researching and came up with postpartum psychosis. This made it difficult not only for the protagonist but many women silenced around the world suffering from these mental illnesses. Women with mental illness were not considered desirable and voided all emotion and regard towards these people. The technology present in this era is not accurate enough to give us the appropriate results and aid. Women who demonstrated any form of opinion or restraint were believed to be mad, and resulted in bed rest and isolation from humanity. This isolation resulted in women becoming “mad” due to the lack of interaction and societal support. Depression is caused by either having too much or too little chemicals in the brain and another important factor is the environment you surround yourself with. The chemicals are not the only factor that affects the severity of depression, having a stressful life, many relationship problems and overall anxiety are all results and measurements of the austerity of depression. Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell was an American physician who discovered the “Rest cure” was an epidemic that let physicians feeling entitled to treat women with harm and negligence, this was problematic because during this era most physicians were males. It was said that “the rest cure was used more often for women than men”.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself had received this treatment from Dr. Weir Mitchell and resented the cure and the suppression of her thoughts and feelings. The connection between Dr. Weir Mitchell and John is uncanny and evident in the fact that they are both prescribing innocent women this bed rest that makes them worse than they already are and to be shameful about their condition. The protagonist states that “John is a physician, and perhaps – perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster”. In the text, it is also stated that the protagonists brother was also a physician and quotes “my brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.”
Overall this short story summarizes and discloses the harassment and insignificance many physician’s diagnosis’ were in this era, and the lack of proper evidence and technology to make a valid analysis. The domestication of women was brought forth and explored indirectly in the text and presented how illnesses implicated a stronger form of restraint and obedience. The way the story was set up was to examine the naivety of women and how they behaved in the presence of man. The imagery in this short story made it easy to visualize the struggles women faced in this era trying to combat mental illness and keep sane. Towards the end of the short story the protagonist makes a dialectical decision to separate herself from this isolation brought upon her from the men in her life and break free.
The essay conveys a lot of information that flows well. However, it would benefit from section headings, better grammar, and more evidence. The evidence provided needs to be cited with the author’s last name and page number.
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