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Commentary on The Yellow Wallpaper Essay


The Yellow Wallpaper

Reading The Yellow Wallpaper by Perkins Gilman is enough to make anyone feel crazy enough to relate to the storys narrator. This story effectively uses fast paced descriptive language to describe the main focus of the story, which is the wallpaper. This constant recurrent picture is analyzed over and over to the point where it is nearly impossible to picture the vivid details of the ever-changing design. With this repetitive text, I believe that Gilman is trying to simultaneously keep the reader entertained, while offering firsthand looks into the obsessive mind of the narrator.

Toward the beginning, the story maintains a typical gothic feel. Because the narrator is a woman, she is confined by her husbands severe level-headedness. No superstitious feelings or psychological troubles she has are properly considered by her husband, and she is forced to live in the highest room in an old gothic mansion against her will. Unlike previous stories weve read such as Young Goodman Brown and The Beast In The Jungle, the narrator is the only character who understands whats going on at first. In Young Goodman Brown, the main character is sucked into the secret meetings in the woods by others, with no idea of what he would witness. In The Beast In The Jungle, the main character has no idea what his feelings and forebodings mean, while his friend figures out his situation first. I find it ironic that in The Yellow Wallpaper, the only character in the story that believes the narrator is mentally illis the narrator herself. Perkins Gilman does this purposely because this is the same situation she found herself in, and she wanted to emphasize the dire negative consequences that result from ignoring these mental issues. I think that being inside the narrators head in this story adds a more effective feeling of isolation. This is because the narrator is convinced that being confined to the room is making her worse, and nobody close to her will listen. As a result, we witness her condition steadily worsen to an unhealthy obsession with the wallpaper.

I am surprised after reading Perkins Gilmans Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper and the excerpt from The Madwoman in the Attic by Gilbert and Gubar. I can easily understand why the short story made such an impact in the literary and medical worlds. However, I have a hard time understanding how the story is enjoyable to read. Personally, I could not sit through the story and finish it in one sitting. The repetitive language and obsessive nature of the narrator gets extremely irritating. While other gothic tales weve read in class have been spooky, ironic, or at least entertaining, I feel that this story is literally sickeningly long. Perhaps that is why it was so effective?

Aside from the theme of madness and mental illnesses, there is a lot of emphasis put on gender roles in the story. Evident in the very first few paragraphs of the story is the way women were not given the same respect as men during that time period. The narrator feels differently from Perkins Gilman as far as gender roles go, because she mostly accepts the advice and rules of her husband. One of Perkins Gilmans main goals of writing this story is probably not only to inform readers about mental illnesses, but to warn women against following their husbands orders instead of their own hearts. I came to this conclusion because Perkins Gilman makes it pretty clear that the story is a worst-case scenario. The narrator makes the mistake of allowing herself to be kept up in bed, and as a result her condition worsens. After reading the reasons why Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, it makes sense that she does not agree with the idea of men being the decision-makers, and does not encourage women to follow all of their commands. Upon analyzing these themes in the story, the message comes together. In fact, this story is funny because I find it more interesting looking back than I did when I first read it.


"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Perkins Gilman

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