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Yellow Wallpaper Case

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The Yellow Wallpaper

Imagine being controlled by someone else every second of the day. This is what author Charlotte Perkins Gilman dictates in her short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. In a short story where the main character or narrator is faced with mental problems diagnosed as postpartum depression. The narrator's husband, John, believes that a "rest" treatment will cure her. This ultimately leads to her mental breakdown. The narrator stated, "He said we solely came here on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get" (Gilman 173). This quote from the short story clearly states how controlling John is in her life, and how that just some rest should be able to cure her. The Yellow Wallpaper can easily be compared and contrasted with women in today's society against the unnamed protagonist and narrator in the story. The views of women change over time in many different ways such as: the woman's role in the family, role as a wife, and role in society.

The Yellow Wallpaper was greatly defined in an article written by Janice Haney-Peritz. She stated, "Gilman's short story has assumed monumental proportions, serving at one and the same time purposes of a memorial and a boundary marker. As a memorial, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is used to remind contemporary readers of the enduring import of the feminist struggle against patriarchal domination" (Haney Peritz 114). This quote sets the tone on how truly important this short story was during the feminist movement in the early 1900's. Some women were inspired by the narrator's slow revolution against her tyrannical husband. Even though the women was crazy she was still seen in the role model in the since of her being strong willed to do the opposite of what her husband and society forced her to do. Overall, The Yellow Wallpaper was a very huge part in the feminist movement.

First, in The Yellow Wallpaper the narrator has a very minute role in the family. John can be seen as a dictator of the household, while the main character is forced to be just a "wife" and a "mother". In the story John forces her to drop her life and stay in a summer home to rest. Being a doctor, the diagnosis he gives her seems almost ridiculous to let her stay in a room by herself most of the time when she is suffering from extreme depression. Being completely alone really leads to the ultimate demise of the protagonist in the story. Their relationship as husband and wife was completely in the wrong. Her whole view of marriage was skewed. The narrator said, "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage" (Gilman 172). This shows that women in this time period just expected to be no one, and to be made fun of. This is very typical of this time period where the relationship of the family's tends to make the mother feel very unimportant. This is depicted very well in the short story because of John's controlling of the main characters life and the way she is treated for her depression. Greg Johnson, author of a literary criticism on The Yellow Wallpaper, stated, "That her husband exerts his tyrannical control in the guise of protectiveness makes the narrator feel all the more stifled and precludes outright defiance" (Johnson). This quote promotes the fact how her husband was really a dictator in her life. Overall, the narrator really cannot stand what her husband is doing to her.

However, the narrator in this short story takes a different approach to stop the tyranny of her husband. Barbara Wiedemann, author of a short story review of The Yellow Wallpaper, stated, "The narrator, untraditionally for women, uses writing to try to understand her difficulties, which she sees as stemming from a situation with gothic qualities" (Wiedemann). This shows the rebellion in the narrator. She begins to show how her husband controlling her trying to force her to rest is slowly making her go crazy, and she begins to use writing as an escape. Which then John said that she could not even write because it stresses her too much. The narrator stated, "There comes John, and I must put this away,-- he hates to have me write a word" (Gilman 174). Overall, the narrator tries very miniscule and seldom things to overthrow her husbands control of her role in the family. In the end she was crazy, but at least she tried to be who she wanted to be.

In the literary criticism by Calum Kerr, "The late 19th Century was a time of strict moral control and the setting of women's responsibilities by men in an ideology referred to as "the Cult of True Womanhood" and divided into "The Cult of Domesticity" and "the Cult of Purity" (Kerr). This led to the idea of women should stay at home. Kerr also furthered this idea by stating, "(women) were to perform only domestic tasks which would serve the family and the household" (Kerr). This statement was lived out in almost every household during this time period.

In contrast, women in families today are forced with many more responsibilities. With most families having marital problems a lot of the time causes a lot of fighting. Then when families go through divorce a lot of the time moms are forced to be both mom and dad. This leaves a lot of stress on both the mom and the kids. The views of women have changed drastically since The Yellow Wallpaper was written. Women are now faced with jobs outside of homes as well. Women are now not controlled as much by their husbands. Both Husband and Wife play equal roles in surviving and raising kids. Overall, the life of a woman has greatly been hardened and more stressful since the story was written because of more responsibilities, but they also have gained a lot more freedom in many different ways.

Next, the women's role as a wife, when The Yellow Wallpaper was written it is very different from today's views. Women in the late 1800's were expected to do everything that their husband said. They were to stay in the house to cook, clean, and take care of the kids. They were not allowed to own property, hold a job, or even vote. This makes women almost seem as a slave to society. They were just pawn pieces to the men. In the story the narrator states, "If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency-- what is one to do?" (Gilman 172). This quote depicts that with John's position as a doctor and a husband both he I in full control when it comes to the illness of the narrator. The narrator stated, "[John] is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction" (173). This leaves her feeling



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