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Feminist Lens - "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Updated on March 14, 2018

Feminist Criticism Outlook

After reading the story, "The Yellow Wallpaper", it became fairly noticeable that the author uses feminist views to express ideas and feelings throughout the book. As the time frame sets back to the 19th century, it takes place during times of women's suffrage. Gilman uses the setting of the story, John's actions, and Jane's thoughts to express these views. Within the story, she discusses the imprisonment and struggles women face in society. She believes that gender roles must be removed in order for women to be free.

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

About the Author-Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3rd, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. She published her best fiction story "The Yellow Wallpaper" in 1892, and her most popular works of non-fiction "Women and Economics" in 1898. Both of these writings focus on feminism. Her early childhood was quite difficult. She was a writer and a social activist which kept her busy, but her family life was stressful. As time progressed, she developed severe depression, which is what I believe influenced her story "The Yellow Wallpaper".

Sex, Love and Degeneration in the 19th Century

"Evolutionary Rhetoric: Sex, Science, and Free Love in Nineteenth-Century Feminism"

The book "Evolutionary Rhetoric: Sex, Science, and Free Love in Nineteenth-Century Feminism" explains the basis of the study of science and the study of feminism in close readings. Starting in the 19th century, this book dates from the early 1850's to the early 1900's. "Hayden organizes her provocative study by scientific discipline—evolution, physiology, bacteriology, embryology, and heredity. Each chapter explores how free-love feminists adopted the evidence of that discipline in their arguments for increased sex education, women's sexual rights, reproductive freedom, and the abolition of a marriage system that repressed the rights and the sexuality of women." The expansion she tells of the history of feminism gives a better understanding of the recovery of women's rhetoric. Gilman uses some of these concepts within her work. This provides evidence that she herself defends feminism aspects and may be or relate to the main female character explained in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper".

Lanser-Feminist Criticism

In this essay, Lanser discusses how the feminist readings of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" are "restrictive and incomplete, positing instead a socio-historical interpretation of Gilman's story, one that discerns in the image of the yellow wallpaper the ethnocentric fears of many Americans at the end of the nineteenth century over the influx of non-Northern European immigrants to the country." In 1973, a publisher referred to by "The Feminist Press" reprinted a smaller version of "The Yellow Wallpaper". After close analysis within the story and the authors life, she concludes that contemporary feminism has changed the way we look at literature, in which I agree. She states that "Gilman's story is not simply one to which feminists have "applied" ourselves; it is one of the texts through which white, American academic feminist criticism has constituted its terms." Throughout her readings, she brings in six other sources to defend her evidence, in which all relate to the feminist community. One of the particular readings she mentions is "Jury of Her Peers", and another author discussed in American Literature, Kate Chopin. She talks about "In the early 1970s, the rediscovery of "lost" works like "The Yellow Wallpaper," Kate Chopin's The Awakening, and Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers" offered not only welcome respite from unladylike assaults on patriarchal practices and from discouraging expositions of androcentric "images of women in literature" but also an exhilarating basis for reconstructing literary theory and literary history." She has taken this information and analyzed not only what's given in the story, but a deeper meaning of the past and how feminist criticism can be misunderstood.


Studying feminism and the feminist lens is like looking through a different perspective. While looking over many articles, this particular study is opinionated. In literature, it involves very close reading, to not focus on other aspects such as psychological and sociological foundations. Within research, Gilman was born and raised into feminist ways, which has deeply effected her compositions. Whether it's based on her life, it mainly ties together with feminist aspects in her literature pieces.

Work Cited

Charlotte Perkins Gilman.”, A&E Networks Television, 2 Apr. 2014,

Feminist Criticism, 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' and the Politics of Color in America Susan S. Lanser.Feminist Studies 15.3 (Fall 1989): p415-441.Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism

HAYDEN, W. Evolutionary Rhetoric : Sex, Science, and Free Love in Nineteenth-Century Feminism. Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, 2013. (Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms). ISBN: 9780809331017.

Waples, Emily. “Mothers' Natures: Sex, Love, and Degeneration in the Nineteenth-Century United States.” Nursing Clio, 16 Oct. 2017,

Zezee. “‘The Yellow Wall-Paper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gillman.” Zezee with Books, 23 July 2015,

© 2018 Kristen Gillam


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