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“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman: Literary Analysis

In writing the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman describes the protagonist and narrator, a young woman giving in to a mental disorder upon giving birth. Through the symbol of the yellow wallpaper on the house walls, the author conveys the mental health state of the protagonist throughout the narrative. The key themes of the narrative are the criticism of the ‘rest cure’ prescribed to women suffering from various mental disorders and of the women’s role in society. In detailing the mental deterioration of the protagonist, the author calls strongly for social reform in how women and their mental health get treated.

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The theme of disregarding female autonomy and independence is brought up early in the narrative. The narrator is a young woman, a recent mother, which, in the words of her husband, has exacerbated her “hysterical tendency” (Gilman 1). The author shows how the narrator being discouraged from work or any activities stifles and restricts her physically and mentally, only worsening her condition. Further, the narrator’s attempts to reclaim her interests and identity as a writer get suppressed by her dismissive husband, a double authority figure since he is also a physician (Gilman 11). Thus, the author demonstrates how women are disregarded both at home and in the larger society.

The author uses symbolism to show the toll mandated rest and idleness take on the narrator’s mental health. Since the narrator is restricted from other mental stimulation, she investigates and analyses the yellow wallpaper in her room (Gilman 8). At first, it is merely unpleasant stains, but over time, a pattern emerges, forming a desperate woman trapped in the cage-like stripes of the wallpaper (Gilman 12). From empathizing with the trapped woman to believing she walks around the house, the narrator gradually immerses in psychosis (Gilman 15). The author uses the wallpaper to symbolize the structure of a family, medicine, and tradition in which the narrator is trapped.

In conclusion, the author conveys the rest cure as a dismissive and unempathetic way to shuffle female mental health away. The use of the yellow wallpaper symbol allows for tracking the narrator’s descent into the pit of madness while being left to herself. The image of a woman stuck in the yellow wallpaper reflects feelings of entrapment and helplessness that women face in marriage and society.

Work Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings. Bantam Classics, 2013. Open WorldCat. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman: Literary Analysis." January 4, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/the-yellow-wallpaper-by-gilman-literary-analysis/.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman: Literary Analysis." January 4, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/the-yellow-wallpaper-by-gilman-literary-analysis/.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) '“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman: Literary Analysis'. 4 January.

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