The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper highlights an instance of a patriarchal society where women do not have the power for self-expression. Gilman takes the first person point of view in expressing her dissatisfaction about the unequal position in marriage and the inability to fulfill her burning desire for self-expression because of John’s dominance in the marriage. She is tied down in the house because of her neurasthenia condition, as John believes that she is still weak and cannot do anything. The analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper would be based on the feminist perspective. The symbol of the wallpaper forms the thread of Gilman’s overall work by highlighting the oppression of women in this patristic society. The symbol of the wallpaper enhances the entire story by indicating the frustrations that women face in the society dominated by men as they cannot make their own decisions. In essence, the symbol of the wallpaper is a representation of the unfair family structure, the oppressive traditions that trap women, and the medicine that could catalyze women to their freedom.
A keen analysis of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper in line with the feminist perspective reveals the symbol of the wallpaper, which enhances the overall meaning of women oppression in the society through the reflection of male dominance, oppressive traditions, and the medicine to freedom.
Gilman utilizes the symbol of the wallpaper to highlight the unfair family structure and the dominance of men in families. Such symbol enhances the overall meaning of the story by indicating the manner in which men frustrate the desire of women to gain their freedom by strangling them as they try to escape from the cage. For instance, John dominates Gilman when she is sick and recovering from the house. She is denied a chance to make her own decision even as she remains in the house when John is away. John’s dominance comes out in a patronizing manner hence highlighting the lack of strength among women in the society. When she tries to move into another room, John reprimands, “Do not go about walking like that, you will get cold!” (Gilman 11). Another unfortunate thing is that John denies her the right to write a book because he believes, “it would weaken her further” (Gilman 6). John was not ready to allow her do anything because of the feeling that she was too weak for anything at the moment. It is a similar view raised by Dock when she affirms that “women writers are trying to rise above the crippling social pressures” (Dock, Allen and Palais 53). The struggle of women in the wallpaper is reflective of their desire to access freedom. It does not materialize easily because of the domineering force of men in the society. The defiance of the law exhibited at daytime indicates the freedom that women need to flourish properly in the society. However, they are still held back by the domineering men as they try to run to freedom by breaking the cage.
More so, the symbol of the wallpaper enhances the entire story by highlighting the oppressive traditions that are against women. Many women are imprisoned by the traditions and cannot do anything in the society dominated by masculine opinions. The sufferings that women face in their families are perpetrated by the traditions that exist within the society. The society fans the high level of discrimination by holding so many women in a cage. According to Gilman, “so many women are festooned behind the bars of the cage” (14). It is indicative of the traditions that propagate the discrimination of women in the society. The unclean nature of the wallpaper is a sign of the society’s uncleanliness when it comes to dealing with issues relating to women. In fact, the uncleanliness caused by the yellow color tends to scare Gilman away from the wallpaper. The feminist critiques discussed by Dock also bring out the negative nature of the traditions toward the efforts of women in the society. The traditional views and approaches to understand women do not give feminist critiques an opportunity to accept Gilman’s work as an expression of disappointment against the discrimination of women in the society (Dock, Allen and Palais 54). Traditions are not favorable to women as they want to see them behind the caged bars all the time. The caged bars on the wallpaper indicate the traditional jail that has imprisoned women in the society hence inhibiting their progress as independent individuals. Ir leads to continued frustrations in their families as they have nowhere to run to in terms of seeking defense to their frustrations. Therefore, Gilman has utilized the symbol of the wallpaper effectively to reiterate the negative approach of the traditions of the society toward women. They prefer locking women up hence restricting their movement.
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Accordingly, the symbol of the wallpaper has also been utilized clearly to enhance the overall meaning of women oppression in the society by reflecting the medicine that is the key to their freedom. It is worth noting that the symbol of the wallpaper enhances the meaning of women discrimination by indicating their struggle to freedom and the medicine that would allow them to gain their coveted freedom. Gilman recovers effectively after some time of medication and she becomes strong enough to do several things on her own. The medicine has helped her to move in the house freely in the absence of John. It is similar to the efforts of women in the wallpaper, as they try to free themselves from the yoke of discrimination that is facing them in the society. However, they get their strength through the medicine that is administered hence getting the chance to free themselves. Gilman reiterates that, “she was getting angry and desperate to escape from the house” (Gilman 18). During her mission to escape, she wishes that it could have been better in instances where women confined in the cage had the capacity to escape the societal oppression they are facing.