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Commentary on The Yellow Wallpaper Essay


The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper evolves a woman who id suffering from post-partum depression. The woman in the story is anxious and nervous. Her anxiety and depression worsen as a result of the proposed treatment prescribed by her husband, John. She and John rent an old colonial mansion so she can rest at ease and become well. Ironically the lack of socialization and involvement in her new-born childs life causes her to become insane. She becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper that covers their bedroom walls.

The narrator in the story is a woman who convinces herself she is physically ill. However John, being a physician, refuses to acknowledge it. As the story continues it is understood she recently gave birth to a child and now suffers from anxiety and depression. She is detached from her child, and has another woman tend to the childs care. This is a classic example of post-partum depression. John decided to rent an old colonial mansion in order for his wife to relax and escape from everything that triggers her anxiety. Ironically his form of treatment is what leads to her insanity. John forbids her to work until she is well. This causes her to resent him and the childs caretaker.

For three months they reside in the mansion. The narrator and John sleep upstairs in the largest room. It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. Although she seems to like the bedroom she abhors the wallpaper that is hung on the walls. She describes it as, a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sticky sulphur tint in others. The longer she is in the room she begins to analyze the paper. She tries to find patterns in the wallpaper where pieces are torn off and missing. Finding patterns and trying to understand how it was arranged consumes her and she becomes fixated.

As the obsession develops she becomes delirious. Although her anxiety and appetite improves she is completely engulfed in the wallpaper. She starts to see objects moving in the paper. She believes there is a woman trapped in wall behind the wallpaper. And she is all the time trying to climb through .But nobody could climb through that patternit strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads. The woman in the wallpaper symbolizes the narrators current emotions and state of mind. She resents her husband, does not want to care for her child, and does not want to be held captive in the bedroom to rest any longer. Several times she asks John to visit with family or have people over to entertain; he tells her she is not well enough for guests and encourages her to rest more. The lack of socialization and activity furthers her depression which leads to her feeling of captivity, much like the woman behind the pattern.

The narrator in the story identifies with the woman in the wallpaper. She describes the woman as, a faint figure who only crawls around at night. By daylight she is subdued and quiet. This is particularly interesting because the narrator states several times in the story that she sleeps during the day and is awake at night. During the night hours is when she focuses on the patterns and the woman trapped in the paper.

The narrator reaches her breaking point in the last days of living in the wallpapered bed room. This is when her anxiety takes over and leads to insanity. She is very anxious about moving back home with John and the new baby. The last night in the mansion she was left alone. John slept at their actual home to make sure everything was ready for her return to the house. In his absence the narrator locks the bedroom door and hid the key so nobody could enter. She then decides to free the woman in the wallpaper. John arrives the next evening to pick her up and finds the bedroom door locked. He eventually broke in, and was appalled by what he saw.

When John entered the bedroom he was overwhelmed. He could not speak, he then fainted. She continued to tear off the paper as she said, Ive got out at last, in spite of you and Jane. And Ive pulled off most of the paper, so you cant put me back! As she speaks she creeps over John to finish peeling off the paper. John lay unconscious across her path to the last papered wall. This last scene is very symbolic. John is controlling and held her captive in the bedroom for three months and forbid her to work or socialize. By creeping over him every time to peel the wallpaper it symbolizes her new freedom. She is no longer held captive in the bedroom by John. By crawling over him while he unconsciously lay on the floor symbolizes the escape from her miserable, controlling marriage. She creeps over him and continues to peel the paper which is viewed as being defiant but in her case victorious. This is the only time in the story where she appears happy. As a result of being victorious over Johns control she loses her sanity.

All in all, the narrator is suffering from post-partum depression and anxiety. The anxiety builds as her husband John forbids her to work and socialize. By being confined to one room she loathes she begins to go insane. She creates a woman who is trapped behind the wallpaper pattern. The two women are confined to the bedroom and they both want to escape but they can not. It is apparent the woman in the wallpaper mirrors the narrator. Before the narrator peeled the paper off the walls she was sick and needed rest to become well. The more she laid in bed to rest she lost her sanity and became more fragile. It is when she peels off the wallpaper she gains back her strength and gains back her freedom. Although she gains freedom from John and the wallpaper, which consumed her she loses her mental stability.

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