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"The Yellow Wallpaper," written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a psychological short story of a mentally ill woman. The main character of the story is a woman who is evidently suffering from post-partum depression among other mental sicknesses. The horror tale of a crazed woman who has an altered state of mind has a reoccurring theme throughout, imprisonment. The theme of being trapped is needed throughout the story because it shows the accurate place of a man and a woman in that society.
The story begins with talk from the troubled main character who is also the narrator that remains unnamed. From the start of the story it is apparent that the narrator has something peculiar about her. In the third line of the story she says "A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted houseâ€¦" (Gilman 720). This statement does not seem out of the ordinary but the actual mansion is a sanitarium and she does not realize it. Her husband John is a physician and brings her to this place because of her illness. The narrator believes that John does not think she is sick, but this is obviously not true. Her room inside this sanitarium looks like a typical mental house jail cell with barred windows and bolted down furniture. To make matters worse for the already mental woman, the walls in her room has impractical yellow wallpaper. There is one difference to her room and a legitimate mental hospital, and that is she is free to leave her room. The feeling of entrapment in the room does not come from the actual room itself, but from her situation within the house and its inhabitants. Being isolated and having post-partum depression made the narrator go crazy, and without the yellow wallpaper there would not be something to express her mental state. From walking along the wall tearing off wallpaper, the reader can tell that the narrator has fully lost her sanity. She cannot leave the wallpaper alone and it soon takes over her thoughts. Her waking moments consists of her staring at the walls or walking along them to tear the wallpaper.
Throughout the story the narrator is constantly getting worse in her health and this directly correlates to her feeling of entrapment within the walls of her room. With every moment in her yellow room she gets foolish and more irrational in her own thoughts and actions. The story is written as diary entries so the theme is portrayed clearly as her writings continue throughout. Because her husband would not approve of it, she has to hide her writings, and having to hide and sneak to write only worsened her ability to keep any sanity. The beginning entries seem to indicate her as a normal and sane person. As the story goes on the narrator is seen as a dark figure creeping along the walls tearing the wallpaper off, and the wallpapers purpose was to visibly show the narrators insanity. The wallpaper was torn half way up the wall, to the highest point the narrator could reach. Not being able to tear all of the wallpaper symbolized that no matter what, woman would not be able to fully do anything in society without men. The theme of being trapped is forced on the narrator because she is a woman in a time where husbands ruled the household with an iron fist and the wives could do nothing to go against them.
The time period of this story is a great factor in how the narrator acted and ultimately how she was treated. Women were not allowed to do many things outside of the house and it was not socially acceptable for women to act out and go against her husband's wishes. For the mentally ill woman to not go along with her husband and live in an uninhibited mental institution would be going against what society says, and she could not do that. She had no choice in many matters and she made the best out of her situation, but her situation was set up for her demise. Living in an institution without a considerable amount of contact with others was the purpose of the narrator's husband, John. Having a crazy wife who just had a baby would have been the end of his career, so he moved them out to a place away from the populated town. If John could keep his wife under the radar and away from other town folk then his life could go on like normal. Away from the towns people she could still be the obedient housewife to John, and he wanted to keep this image for his whole family's sake. Along with being isolated from others, the narrator could not be with or nurture her own baby because she was in a barred room, and the main role of a wife was to nurture everyone in the household. Before she went crazy she knew she was being a burden to her husband because she could not perform the most essential tasks a wife should be able to do.
It may seem that the narrator is trapped in her yellow room but in fact she is free to leave at any time. This is clear when she throws the key for the inside of the door outside in the garden. Her husband John then tries to get into her room but cannot because she locked it from the inside. If she was able to lock it from the inside, then her access to leave was always there, but she never took the chance to leave. The narrator was too occupied by the wallpaper and the idea that she was sick and had to rest to get better. After many incidents where she sees other people creeping places, in which it is really her, she has crossed the line to getting better. She can no longer get better and the awareness of entrapment to the narrator is a mentally induced feeling. Although she is not physically trapped in her room she is trapped in societies boundaries for a woman.
The horror short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman exudes the theme of entrapment. With the main character having wild actions and mental issues the story can be seen by the reader as a psychological thriller. The irrational nature of the narrator showed the clear theme of being trapped within societies ways in that time period.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Exploring Literature: Writing and Arguing about Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. Ed. Frank Madden. 4th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 720-725.