The Yellow Wallpaper, a Feminist Manifesto
The Yellow Wallpaper is an indication for change within the patriarchal culture of society. The want for change is seen through a semi autobiography detailed by Charlotte Perkins Stetson. In the story, Stetson showcases the readers an occurrence comparable to what she had experienced during her time of being “sick”. During Stetson’s life, she had experienced post-partum depression, a type of mental disorder associated with childbirth. The symptoms of post-partum depression include, but not limited to, sadness, exhaustion, anxiety, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, irritability, and arbitrary crying. These symptoms were seen within the fictional character of Mary, our main protagonist with, exhaustion, sadness, and anxiety being some of the major problems that Mary faces with her life. The story makes clear indication of this illness at the beginning of the story “…with one but temporary nervous depression…”. Mary is suffering from depression, and does not get herself treated since, during the time of both the story and reality, men thought of these mental illnesses as ordinary after childbirth and made little to no concern of such illnesses. This is due to the patriarchal culture, during the late 1800s, when the story was published. The theme is general, is found within the beginning of the story, depression, sadness, oppression, seclusion, and ignorance of people during the 1880s.
We are introduced to a very secluded woman, her husband, a physician and Jennie, a maid as well as her sister in law. We are brought to this large house filled with the void of space. We see through the perspective of Mary as we dwell through her life, and her issues.
Inciting moment: We are introduced to this hideous yellow wallpaper, a representation of her mental illness, and with the introduction of the yellow wallpaper, Mary’s symptoms start to appear. Rising action: With each thought, and physical contact with the yellow wallpaper, we see Mary’s sanity start to decline with her symptoms worsening. Mary also begin to see a woman in the wallpaper, a direct representation of herself being caught in the depression of herself. Climax: The climax begins at page 653. Once she begins to take interest of the wallpaper and the mystery behind the woman in the wallpaper, her personality starts to shift. She becomes to become mentally unstable as she starts drastically going insane. She starts hallucinating about a “creeping woman” creeping about at night. She starts bickering back at her husband, which is unheard of during the patriarchal culture of society during the late 1800s. Falling Action: During the last day at being the house, Mary begins tearing down the yellow wallpaper, trying to get the woman out of the wallpaper. Indications of her being psychotic include “I bit off a little piece at one corner…” and “To jump put of the window would be admirable exercise…. Her personality has clearly changed and is no longer her sane self. This falling action is also in sync with her mentality falling.
Resolution: The resolution comes about with Mary calling out to her husband who is on the other side of the locked door. With his slow reactions and response, once he can open the door, he faints soon after. These indications all point to Mary committing suicide by being hanged. These indications include the husband being shocked, to the point of fainting, as well as Mary carrying a rope “But I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope…”. Presuming that Mary had committed suicide, we can see the reasoning with her deteriorating sanity, and neglecting from her husband, as well as seclusion from society.
The mood and atmosphere provide a sense of reality to the story itself. The story is seen through a character who is struggling with depression, as we see her strive for something to try to better this illness. The emptiness of the house sets up the atmosphere of alienation of the main protagonist, which forces her sanity to fall further down. We that our protagonist tries to find enjoyment within the seclusion of her home, with writing and napping, but son gets the sense of excitement due to the enigmatic wallpaper that is left unattended for many years. With each passing journal entry, we see the through her perspective, the broken life in which she fills, as each day proves to be the same as before, but with the inclusion of this bizarre yellow wallpaper, her life seems to take a turn for the better, but really, this creates a false sense of hope for our character, as she begins to watch the wallpaper, and find enjoyment out of it, demanding her life to be better for her husband’s sake. As we approach the resolution, we can see that the mood shifts in sync with our characters personality. It begins to fall into darkness and despair, as well as our protagonist does. We then reach the conclusion of a character’s act of desperation of a better life, but results in herself being in shambles. We can see that the mood and atmosphere shifts with the story and characters, and as we reach the conclusion, we see that the mood and atmosphere had change drastically.
The main characters of The Yellow Wallpaper reinforce the message because of how Stetson had experiences with depression, and with that experience, provided our main protagonist, Mary, with a realistic standpoint of what depression really is. We can see that Mary is the character of need and is obligated to do what she is tasked to do. This is due to her husband who enforces his opinions onto her, forcing her to be abandoned and chained down, only obeying to his commands. The message of gender equality is seen with the fact that that the story is heavily influenced on parochial culture of the 1880s and how there needs to be change within society. Jennie is introduced as the opposite of Mary, someone who is obedient, and capable, as well as not mentally sick like herself. Jennie is also there to showcase to Mary of who she should become, in which Mary rejects with doing activities that both the husband and Jennie do not approve of. The woman in the wallpaper represent herself, a neglected, broken woman who cannot recover from her illness since she cannot leave the wall in which she is held up in. Although Mary tries to help, she just sealed her own fate, by ripping the wallpaper down, she allowed for herself to become that neglected person, who cannot stand up to her husband on what he says. It shows how powerless women were at that time and that there should be change within the equality of both males and females.
Stylistic devices reinforce the main message because it details the story in a way that allows for readers to think. “At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars!” This stylistic device is a symbol of herself, and women during the nineteenth century. These women were sheltered in houses, usually by themselves, like bars in a jail cell. This symbol also represents the fact that women were oppressed and enslaved by the men during the 1800s due to the inequality of genders. “It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.” This simile, and second person point of view indicates the fact that the wallpaper is torturing her and making her insane with each passing day. This builds up her shift of personality and is important later in the story. “The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions –why, that is something like it.” This metaphor is a direct comparison of the wallpaper with mushrooms. This metaphor indicates the appearance of the wallpaper, and its atrocious appearance of yellow. “Round and round and round – round and round and round – it makes me dizzy!” This repetition of the word “round” gives us a glimpse of how broken Mary is at this point of the story. Her insanity has taken over her and she thinks and talks different from the Mary we knew at the beginning of the story.
The story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, demonstrates a feminist perspective because it elaborates on the ideology of empowerment of women and how society needs change. The text reflects this through the idea of depression and anxiety and how women are mentally dying due to the inability of doing any tasks outside the house. The character Mary embodies the complex nature of a typical female wife, who has fallen quite ill. Her husband, a physician takes little note of her illness and shakes it off as “a slight hysterical tendency”. The neglection of such a destructive illness on a fragile frame of mind, causes her to rampage into madness near the end of the story. The mistreatment of women is shown as a significant stand point of gender inequality, and how this man driven world needs change. Women during the 1880s strive to gain equal status, and the only way of doing this is through the pen and paper. As seen with this short story, we can see that personal experiences of the authors play into the story heavily and create a realistic tale in which women are weak and incapable of doing much. Depression in this story, is implied to be a force applied to the females due to their husbands. We can see that application through this within the story with Mary believing “…that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.” But is unable due to the power in which men hold upon society and on their wives. Near the end of the story, we can see that the depression becomes too much, that she becomes insane, and through disparity tries to “…To jump out of the window….”. This indicates the fact that women are unable to live their lives normally under heavy stress and anxiety from their lower status as women. The ethics of change in society, during the time, slowly become more coherent with each passing page of the short story. It shows that status inequality can affect people in ways more than one.
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