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The Yellow Wallpaper Feminist Criticism

Updated on November 6, 2012
Technically this is one of the flowers my boyfriend gave me, not a wallpaper, but really, does it make that much difference? It's a picture.
Technically this is one of the flowers my boyfriend gave me, not a wallpaper, but really, does it make that much difference? It's a picture.

The author portrays 'The Yellow Wallpaper' as a story of madness. The character tells of a woman who is slowly losing her sanity because she is depressed. She becomes obsessed with this yellow wallpaper in the room in which she lays, which torments her mental state. The woman becomes more and more insane as time goes on, but nobody will believe her when she asks for help.

The protagonist, the woman with depression, has just had a child and most likely is suffering greatly. Doctors in that time did not know how to handle this, nor did they want to tell someone that they were mentally ill because it was looked down upon to be mentally ill. The wallpaper that constantly annoys the woman is torn down in the end, "I'm actually quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper (Gilman)."

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The woman who is never named is forever trying to please her husband. She is told that nothing is wrong with her, and she just needs to rest and eat. "Your exercise depends on your strength my dear .. and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time (Gilman)." She always obeys the men in her life and mostly believes their words to be true.

She later begins to realize that she must be of not sane mind. She mentions this idea to her husband, but is shut down, told that the idea would be proposterous. "I beg of you, for my sake and for our child's sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! (Gilman)." The husband, John denies the idea of her having a mental illness, because it was looked down upon in their culture. The denial of her idea by her husband was first accepted by her and thought to be true. She accepted that she was just physically ill, but soon realizes she is mentally ill. "Personally, I disagree with their ideas (Gilman)."

The husband never looks down upon her. He treats her with respect and he truly does care about her. "Dear John! He loves me dearly, and hates to have me sick (Gilman)." He does love and care for her, he calls her 'dear' and other things because he cares. "You know the place is doing you good, .. and really, dear, I don't care to renovate the house just for three month's rental (Gilman)." The use of these words in modern time would be to show that someone cares enough to call their significant other a sweet name. In the early 1900s calling a significant other 'dear' was a normal and practised manner. It was a way of showing love, care, and respect.

Her mental illness made her slowly begin to distrust John. John tries to talk to her as a caring husband, but because he is a doctor, he is expected by society to know more about the illnesses than her. He studied, he became, and he is a doctor. He should know what is wrong with her. "If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband.. (Gilman)." But, the lady knows that he is wrong. John though, doesn't accept that he is wrong because society refuses to let a doctor be wrong.

The yellow wallpaper itself is a clear example of the walls she has built up for herself. The woman sinking further and further into a serious case of mental illness, thinking that the wallpaper is moving and causing hysteria. Near the end, the woman tears down the wallpaper, stands on her bed to reach it, ties a rope to the ceiling for some reason, but tears down the wallpaper that she ever so wanted to get rid of. "Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor (Gilman)." The satisfaction of accomplishing something and seeing that she no longer has to stare at that wretched wallpaper drives her into complete madness.

By the end of the story, the woman has gone completely insane; insane enough for her husband to faint when he sees what she has done. He could not believe his eyes when he saw his wife standing on the bed, tearing down the yellow wallpaper that annoyed her so. He fainted, both our of shock and fear. He was shocked she was moving about like a normal person because of her state, and was fearful because he didn't want her to get hurt. Or get worse.


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