The Yellow Wallpaper
In her work “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gillman illustrates the gender issues of the 19th century when women had little to no control over decisions that affected them. To begin with, the short story covers the notion of women being inferior to men. According to the author, women were often diagnosed as “temporary nervous depression” by male doctors whenever they tried to voice their ideas, preferences, or opinions (Gillman, 1982). The narrator tells how her opinions are overlooked. For example, she preferred the downstairs room, “but John would not hear of it” so she was forced to take the upstairs nursery, which John, her husband, preferred (Gillman, 1982). Consequently, women were left out of decisions regarding their roles and social interactions which were thought to over-stimulate their minds.
Secondly, roles in the family are predetermined such that they do not promote gender equality. The narrator’s husband, who is a doctor, prescribes her the “rest-cure.” When she is on the medicine, she is neither allowed to write nor have social interactions (The Guardian, 2014). Therefore, she is prevented from expressing herself and having an identity (Gillman, 1982). The narrators’ predicament reflects the fate of women in society, especially during and before the 20th century. John contributes to the narrator’s illness since he does not recognize that “rest-cure” prescription is not appropriate for the sickness from which she suffers. Rather, he should have allowed her to interact with the people she wanted to do so with and encouraged her to write. It is evident from the story that women’s professionalism is not encouraged, which significantly discourages them. As the narrator mentions, “it was so discouraging not to have any advice or companionship about work” (Gillman, 1982). The narrator’s situation depicts how the creativeness of women was cut short and regarded as hysteria.
The society valued male opinions over female’s as evidenced by the narrator. She explains that her family believes her husband’s and brother’s diagnosis of her condition and disregards her opinion. John often concludes talks by asserting his opinion and as the narrator states, she “found it hard to talk to him” (Gillman, 1982). For instance, despite the narrator’s illness not improving after the three months of isolation and rest and her request to be moved earlier, her husband insists that she is getting well. He states, “Really dear you are better!” (Gillman, 1982). This leads to misunderstandings between them since the husband does not consider the narrator’s words. Moreover, John uses patronizing words, such as “blessed little goose” or “little girl,” when referring to his wife, which though meant to be endearing, portray the narrator as a child by (Gillman, 1982).
Finally, the narrator demonstrates the restrictions that the society placed against women through her description of the upstairs nursery room “…the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs…” (Gillman, 1982). In the era when the book is set, women were limited in their roles and supposed to fulfill the set obligations of marriage and motherhood. However, the narrator was stripped of these roles due to her ‘nervous condition’ and put in isolation, which is evident in her words, “it does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way! I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!” (Gillman, 1982). For an ingenious writer such as the narrator, having a stimulated mind with fancies and excitement were key. However, the belief system in the society limited her capacity, and her “rest-cure” prescription was meant to completely restrict her writing, which had been an outlet and means of influencing the society.
Gilman, C. P. (1982). The Yellow Wallpaper. Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/theliteratureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf
The Guardian. (2014, November 25). The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – review. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/nov/25/review-yellow-wallpaper-charlotte-perkins-gilman