The Imagery Of Violation Of Women’s Rights In Yellow Wallpaper

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper” serves as a perfect example of how women have been persecuted in the 19th century. Throughout the story, the main character, as she observes the house while in isolation, notices the true meaning in life, specifically for women. Gilman’s piece unveils the unfortunate requirements that women must meet in order to become accepted into society. The imagery and description of the house mentioned in “The Yellow Wall-paper” holds a much more symbolized sense reassuring the main character about women’s roles in life, according to humanity.

Along with the other furniture in the house, the bedroom that is placed in the nursery serves a short, yet important role in the story. The bedroom is described as immovable, and it is restrained, heavy, “as if it had been through wars” (Gilman, 847). From this, one can gather the information that is described by the main character that the bedroom symbolizes the sexual nature of women. The ideal woman was described as the pure, desexualized, stay-at-home wife. In fact, according to KORVATH’s “Of Female Chastity and Male Arms”, the “standards of cleanliness and moral hygiene contributed to subduing the ‘monstrous feminine’”. During the 19th century and still up to today, women have only been seen as objects that are useful for reproduction. Women were not allowed to express themselves sexual and explore among the horizons. As mentioned in KORVATH’s “Of Female Chastity and Male Arms”, a woman was considered “sinful and impure” if she ever tried to tempt a man sexually, going against the “patriarchal control, locating woman as ‘object’ of the dominating male gaze”. This issue has pressured women into thinking that the only place they could express themselves is the bedroom.

The main character’s husband, John, and his sister portray how society really is towards women’s roles. John is convinced that whatever condition his wife is going through is nonsense and takes her health lightly. Anything that comes out of the main character’s mouth regarding the desire to rearrange the house for valid purposes sounds silly to him, as he continues to treat her less than a wife, let alone a woman. To him, all that mattered was his wife to stay healthy for “[his] sake and for [their] child’s sake, as well as for [her] own” exactly in that order (Gilman, 850). The main character must focus on being the perfect wife, the perfect mother, and serve the family whenever they depended on her. Her own health and worries were her last priority. John, just like society, expects high standards for women to meet in order to belong and if they couldn’t meet those expectations, then they were not respected.

Not only does the main character observe the meaning behind the wallpaper, but so does her sister-in-law. However, it does not seem to satisfy her nor change her perspective on life either. John’s sister seems to be content living the domestic life, “and hopes for no better profession”, and obeys society’s values. Jennie portrays the women from the 19th century who follow what every man would want in a lady (Gilman, 847). There was no need for a woman to be out working when that job belonged to the husband. The wife was needed at home for the children, as well as clean any mess or cook all the meals for the family, as they depended on her to do so.

One attribute from the house that almost drove the main character over the edge was the nursery, especially the yellow wall-paper. The room seemed spacious, yet the window in the nursery was barred. The piece that the main character found the most discomfort in was from the wall-paper. It consisted of a mostly yellow shade to it, but not the tone that appealed to most people. The paint caused sadness and somewhat comfort and understanding towards the main character throughout the story. What seemed odd was why the author chose to use the yellow color, as it was one of the colors that represented happiness. It could perhaps have resembled the act of rotting away or unnatural effect, as she described it to be “repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow”, symbolizing the way that women could unsatisfy society if they didn’t meet up to their standards (Gilman, 845). The meaning of yellow could signify the misrepresentation of the truth, or the action of deceiving someone. The main character could have been feeling deceived into thinking that her true purpose in life was only a domestic one.

The pattern and the wall-paper never brought much life to the room, however, with its “vicious influence had”, it motivated the main character into contemplating the meaning of it, and what it meant for her purpose in life (Gilman, 847). To the main character, it seems as if a woman, along other women, stand in the wall-paper that somehow lure the nervous character into learning more about them and what they wanted. During the daylight, the woman moves a lot, and around, showing “a lack of sequence, [and] a defiance of law” (Gilman, 850). At nighttime, the woman stays still, but “seemed to shake the pattern [of the wallpaper], just as if she wanted to get out” (Gilman, 849). As the light in the room grows to diminish, the condition of the woman in the wall-paper seems to worsen. The main character mentions how different the wall-paper looks when comparing day to night, as if she couldn’t tell if it was the same wall-paper that she has been observing. John is almost never home while the sun is out, and comes to his wife late at night. If John symbolizes the way society treats women, then it could explain the reason why the woman in the wall-paper felt trapped and unable to show her true self at night. The woman in the wall-paper, just like the main character, is afraid to talk about her true feelings while John is home. He has control over what his wife is allowed to do, in order for her to improve her health, for his sake, for she must be the perfect wife he desires her to be.

While the main character was held in isolation, she started to allow her imagination, or hallucination, come alive, as that was her escape from being held captive to cope with her condition. At this point of the story, she starts losing her sanity and allows her senses to be taken over by her hallucinations. The wall-paper and everything in it started to move, like an animation. However, the main character also noticed an odor that belonged to the wall-paper. She described the smell as a rotting fungus, seeping out of the paper, traveling throughout the house, taunting her. The house seemed to begin engrossing her sanity, but it doesn’t seem to be literal. The reader might think that the main character is going insane as she tries to find her true identity, but it could be the reason why Gilman wrote the story that way. The main character finding her true identity sounds like a very odd and strange idea to people in the 19th century, as women were expected to be satisfied with the treatment given by their husbands and society.

The main character is also convinced that the pattern is the reason why the woman feels so constrained. The pattern constantly went on and on and never stopped for a moment the more the main character observed. It was as if the woman was meant to show a certain appearance in the wall-paper. There was no hope for the woman and other women stuck in the wall-paper unless the pattern took another course, or a complete stop. During the 19th century, there always seemed to be a pattern like the one in the wall-paper. Women were put under pressure all the time to maintain a certain image. In Norbert Soldon’s “Victorian Education and the Ideal Womanhood”, women were always “torn between their desire to express their compassion and their desire to be modest”. They were never given the chance to choose both. By following the same standards that society held for them, there was never going to be a stop towards gender roles.

The main character discovers the bitter truth about women’s roles in life, and ultimately tries to find a way to change hers. Once she starts losing her sanity, the clearer her thoughts become, revealing the main purpose of the story. She realizes that the woman in the wall-paper is her, and the rest of the women in it are actual women that are in the same situation as her. Her husband, who just by being her husband and doctor, is the one who holds authority, demonstrating that any argument of a woman against a man’s will quickly be lost for the sole purpose of difference in gender. Gilman wrote this story to not only prove how unfair women were treated in the 19th century, but that this sort of mentality/idea will not be changed unless these standards are broken.


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