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The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and first published in 1892 can be acclaimed as an important piece of early feminist literature. The story features a considerable entrance on the themes related to prevailing attitudes to women, their place in society and their physical, emotional and mental health which were prevailing in the nineteenth century. There also exist more points of view on the significance of this story. The author herself explains that the story is a reflection of her own experience which she acquired as a result of her own mental health problems.

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It is an interesting fact from the author’s biography that Charlotte Gilman faced some mental problems, and turned to a doctor for help. He, in turn, prescribed her a treatment mainly focused on her isolation from society and limitation of any mental work which only worsened her condition severely. When Gilman realized that she was on her way to madness she quit this treatment, and managed to conquer her problem by means of her own efforts. Being motivated by her concerns for the other women who might face similar problems she wrote this story. The result of this revolutionary piece of literature is more that inspiring: the author not only managed to change the treatment conceptions of her doctor, but she initiated a new dialogue in the area of feminism and emancipation.

Reflecting on the ideas related in the story, it should be said that the author presents quite a progressive outlook on the matters of gender issues for the period of time when it was written. Woman’s role was not significant in society that time; not many opportunities at work and a heavy laden position in the family were women’s lot in life. Symbolically this situation could be compared to the room with yellow wallpapers described in the story. The author describes this “killing softly” atmosphere in the following words:

It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper—the smell! … The only thing I can think of that it is like, is the color of the paper! A yellow smell (Davison 53).

It seems that this description is the very pain of the author about the sadness of women’s life: limited in opportunities and oppressed in their own house they were predestined to some gloomy end.

Speaking about the many associations that the story calls in mind, I would mention a lot of similar works including “The Storm” by Kate Chopin, “A Room of One’s Own” and “Three Guineas” by Virginia Woolf. All these works raise a lot of issues related to women’s life and position in society during the history of humanity. These works encourage thinking about those useful and important abilities women possess which will help them to bring a lot of benefits for the humanity in case they are applied in practice. There is also a group of important ideas in such pieces of literature connected to common mistakes made by doctors, psychologists and psychics concerning women’s mental peculiarities and the conclusions made on the basis of them in medical practice.

Works Cited

Davison, Carol 2004, Haunted House/Haunted Heroine: Female Gothic Closets in “The Yellow Wallpaper. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 23). The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-charlotte-perkins-gilman/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 23). The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-charlotte-perkins-gilman/

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"The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." StudyCorgi, 23 Dec. 2021, studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-charlotte-perkins-gilman/.

1. StudyCorgi. "The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." December 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-charlotte-perkins-gilman/.


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StudyCorgi. "The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." December 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-charlotte-perkins-gilman/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." December 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-charlotte-perkins-gilman/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Theme of Feminism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman'. 23 December.

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