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"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a book by Charlotte Perkins Gilman which was published in 1892. It has engendered a wide variety of interpretations. The narrator is a woman whose nervous condition is disturbing her. Her husband thinks rest will cure her but she does not believe him. This paper seeks to analyze and answer the question on "how well do the themes of oppression of women as well as their struggle to for their freedom and expression comes out in The Yellow Wallpaper"
Subordination and oppression of women in the society, especially in Marriage
In "The Yellow Paper", the narrator portrays a picture of a society which is male dominated. Women are not given any freedom to express themselves. They are used just as object to satisfy the desires of the man, and that's all. Any attempt by a woman to oppose the prevailing situation is quickly obstructed by their male counterparts. They are put behind the bars where it is difficult for them to come out. Marriages are characterized by male domination. Every idea from a woman is not respected. This is expressed well when narrator wonders why the house had not been tenanted, John laughs at her. But the narrator comments that this is expected from marriages (Perkins 394). This implies that women are looked down upon, in the entire society especially within the marriages.
The narrator is given no voice by the husband who is also her doctor in even the minutest particulars of her life. She says that John does not believe that her sickness is serious. She laments that there is nothing she can do over this issue. John informs her relatives that there is nothing wrong with her and that the problem was temporary. This means that she is not given any room to express her feelings. She says "And what can one do?" (Perkins 394).Her suggestions of the best way of tackling her mental disturbance, such as the removal of the yellow wallpaper from her recovery room, are casually ignored.
The author is trying to pass the message that the society especially the men are determined to maintain women in the state of subordination in the society curbing every attempt to prove their intelligence. This wrong perception of women results in men misjudging, patronizing, as well as dominating women's lives and causing them misery while actually thinking that they are helping the women.
As displayed in the text, ideas raised by a woman are not treated with any seriousness. When the narrator tells her husband that she felt something strange about the house, John told her that this is just a draught. He doesn't bother to find out whether it could be something serious. This is because the idea came from narrator's mouth and it is ignored because she is a woman.
Final decisions in families are left on the hands of men. Despite the fact that the narrator feels uncomfortable with the house they were accommodating, she had no option but persevere because John would not hear of it (Perkins 395). Women are treated like machines which are driven according to the wishes of the man. They are rarely given an opportunity to express their feelings. The narrator's role as a woman in society is a role that is inferior to a man's role. She is expected to do as John says and if she wants something that is against John's will she faces a massive opposition. Surprisingly, John is the one who decides when her wife ought to visit their relatives. She says "John thought it might do me good to see a little companyâ€¦â€¦" (Perkins 395).
John is determined to discourage her wife from writing. The narrator says that it is only when she is alone that she is able to write. She feels free when John is away because this is the only time that she has an opportunity to write (396). This indicates that women are not given freedom to exploit their talents. This is cultivated by the fear of the opposite gender from being overpowered. Furthermore, this indicates denial of the freedom of expression for the woman. They can't express themselves freely through writing. She complains that she gets very tired when she tries to write because she can't get any advice or companionship while writing her work. (Perkins 396).
Even her fellow women are not there to encourage her. The woman progression is also discouraged by their fellow women. The narrator had to stop writing when she saw John's sister approaching. The narrator wants to portray that some of the women in the society have not realized their state of oppression.
The woman in the wallpaper is referred to as a "dim sub-pattern" (Gilman 401). The use of sub-pattern to describe the woman proposes that the woman is obviously an inferior and invisible part of the wallpaper as a result of being pushed into the background.
The symbol of a woman behind strangling patterns shows how women are confined in the society. They tries to shake but the bars are too strong to break through. These bars symbolically represent the conditions laid down by men to hinder women from achieving their freedom.
Struggle for freedom from oppression
Through the symbol of a wall paper with puzzling patterns, the writer reveals some hope for women. With time, the narrator realized that there was a woman crawling behind that pattern (Perkins 399). This is an indicator for awakening of the women. Women are commencing to realize their exploitation in the society. This is through the realization of a woman crawling behind the bars.
The writer says that the peculiar thing in the paper is that it changed with light changes. This implies that the prevailing conditions in the society of women subordination keeps on changing with time and that woman will fight for their freedom.
Finally, the narrator realizes that the front pattern with strangles is being shaken by the crawling woman (Perkins 402). The woman was shaking the bars very hard. This is the struggle of the women to fight for their freedom. They are determined to shake off the traditions in order to be free. The crawling woman finally manages to escape from behind the bars at night. This signifies that the women are going to succeed in their struggle for freedom.
Perkins, Gilman. "The Yellow Wallpaper". Literature Reading, Reacting and Writing. 7th edition. Kirszner, New York: Wadsworth, Inc, 2010. 394-405.