Portrayal Of Women's Oppression In The Yellow Wallpaper

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Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written in a period when women were oppressed by men: they were meant to be seen and not heard. The story does not discuss what John is treating the narrator as an official diagnosis. “As the story progresses, the woman loses her grip on the world outside her room. She appears to be mad. The yellow wallpaper in her creepy room, in that alien environment, becomes somehow symbolic of her madness” (Gonzalez). Mental illnesses can suppress and have many ways of evolving. Her husband treats her illness as if it does not exist, mistreats her as a patient as well, and intellectually abuses her. 

Throughout the story, there are many ways her husband, John, mistreats her as a spouse and patient. She says, “But John says if I feel so shall neglect proper self-control: so, I take pains to control myself” (Gilman471). This shows how she feels about John’s treatment with the “rest cure,” which seemed to be the best form of treatment then. She wants to continue writing her thoughts on paper, but he prohibits her from this and puts her in the upstairs in an old nursery or children’s playroom controlling her. “Dr. John feels that with his wife’s imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like hers is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies and that she ought to use her will and good sense to control the tendency,” (González). As a husband and Doctor, John needs to encourage his wife and listen thoroughly to her symptoms and what she is feeling emotional. “John laughs at me, but one expects that in a marriage,” (Gilman473). This shows how she expects to be torn down by John and that it happens regularly. “Jane’s interior struggle to be herself and to reclaim her independence: her need to be creative by keeping a journal, or the existence of the woman for whom Jane demolishes the yellow wallpaper to affect her escape,” (Barth) “John attempts to cure his wife’s “nervous condition” through the rest cure of Weir Mitchell, which assumes that intellectual stimulation damages a woman physically and psychologically,” (Hudock). John also tells her she could not express herself through writing. This shows the lack of freedom of choice given to her treatment. 

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Jane sees that there are many other women like her when she sees other women in the yellow wallpaper. “At that time, it was common to remove a depressed woman from all sources of stress or sensory stimulation; women such as Jane were separated from their children, kept in bed, hand-fed, bathed, and massaged. It is precisely this type of treatment that drives Jane to begin hallucinating,” (Barth) Removing the narrator was beginning to feel more trapped as the story went on. The more she was in the room “Cabin Fever” appeared to set in. “John attempts to cure his wife’s “nervous condition” through the rest cure of Weir Mitchell, which assumes that intellectual stimulation damages a woman physically and psychologically,” (Hudock). Jane is depressed, nervous, and delusional which are symptoms of her suffering from a mental illness. “I don’t like to look out the windows even- there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of the wallpaper as I did,” (Gilman483). This shows how she is discouraged, starting to hallucinate, and is curious about the outside world. “However, examined in isolation, it reveals the depth of the narrator’s sickness as we realize that she is hallucinating movement and life within the wallpaper, and that this does not seem strange to her,” (González). This brings on more stress to her other conditions. 

There’re different scenarios that could have brought on her symptoms in the story. “Gilman indicates that the meaning of her story extends beyond an isolated, individual situation. Gilman’s main purpose in writing The Yellow Wallpaper is to condemn not only a specific medical treatment but also the misogynistic principles and resulting sexual politics that make such treatment possible” (Hudock). These women may also be depressed, suppressed, or feeling trapped. She then wonders when it will all end. “Such as descriptions of the bars on her window, the bite marks on the bed that is bolted to the floor, and her increasing lassitude — now can be reinterpreted as describing the true nature of where the narrator has been staying at an asylum,” (Barth) When looking at it from this perspective, one can see this as a possible option to her being in an institution. “Furthermore, even though her name is eventually revealed, it is, in essence, a nonnamed: Jane, as in Jane Doe, as in anonymous, without a history or connections of any sort,” (Seuss). The unnamed narrator’s struggle is the same that most women go through with mental abuse, anxiety, and depression. Gilman’s Story impacted psychological treatment for women throughout history and today. Her own experiences with Weir’s treatment impacts neurasthenia treatment still today (Gonzalez). “Gilman published an essay The Forerunner titled “Why I Wrote the Wallpaper.” In the essay, Gilman says that after suffering from depression for three years, she decided to see the most famous American neurologist,” (Brown). Gilman creates a fictional story using the experiences in her own life and gives a vivid description of life through the eyes of someone suffering from a mental illness.

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