During the 19th century, women sought to assert themselves in an attempt to overcome the status quo of male domination, which forbade them from political appointment and intellectual indulgence. Furthermore, experts in the realm of medicine and science sought to qualm the thought of feminine upward mobility, by noting the relative weakness of females in an attempt to justify inequality (Bed Rest 4). "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman represents an escape from society's roles of women and regaining the freedom they have lost. The narrator, striving for female individuality is constantly hindered by male domination derived from the 19th century which drives her to commit suicide.
In the article Woman Sphere and Public Square written by Karen Fisher Younger, she states:
Americans from this time period defined woman's role as domestic and private, separate from the world of public life. More than this, it was thought woman was morally and spiritually purer precisely because she stayed away from the corrupting public sphere. It was during this time women's traditional domestic roles at home as wives and mothers took on a sacred quality. And this separate spheres ideology one private for women and the other public for men were perceived as immutable law from God. (43)
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Ironically enough, the ideology of separate spheres helped amplify women's influence in the public, according to historians. Women were viewed as more moral and spiritually sound than men, boasting the belief that women were better equipped to contribute to the overall morality of society.
The narrator, a woman prescribed to rest cure by her physician/husband John, is confined to her bedroom, a child's nursery with bad yellow paint and bars on the windows. The two windows that she looks out of, represents the possibilities of women if seen as equals by the opposite sex. The words she uses to describe her view through the first window are "I can see the garden, those mysterious deep-shaded arbor, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees" (328). The depiction of "the garden" represents society. The word "mysterious" show that women's ability hasn't been brought forth into the light. The second one shows "the lovely view of the bay" and "a little private wharf, belonging to the estate" (328). The bay shows that society was unfamiliar with the abilities of women and the private wharf shows that women are excluded from things in society.
Next is the yellow wallpaper. The color yellow is looked at as sign of sickness or weakness. "The color is repellent, almost revolting: a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight, It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others" (327). This implies that women are the weaker of the two sexes. The narrator's husband tells her to get over her dislike of the yellow wall paper in the room. "He laughs at me so about this wallpaper! At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterward he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies" (327). This shows that when women try to free themselves from the restrictive bonds of society, men oppress them and enforce the idea that they are inferior.
The deprivation of the narrator's individuality drives her to commit suicide. She wants to jump out the window but "the bars are too strong even to try" (335). The bars symbolize the restrictive hold that her husband or all men have on her, or all women in society. "I've got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find" (335), the rope symbolizes the way she is going to handle her situation. As John comes to the door and tells the narrator to open it, she had already locked it from the inside. "In the gentlest voice" she tells him, "I can't," and that "the key is down by the front steps under the plantain leaf" (335). At this moment in time she is "securely fastened" by the "well-hidden rope" and is already strung up like "all those strangled heads" behind the wallpaper (335). John goes to retrieve the key, he comes back to open the door and to his surprise he faints. The horror behind all this was he put her in that room where she became imprisoned by the wallpaper.
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In conclusion, you could say that hanging herself was her form of escape. In a male dominated society women during this period were suppose to be seen and not heard, and their job mainly was to have children and take care of the house. The narrator had things she loved to do, but because of the time in which she lived, those things were not what the rules of society wanted. "There comes John, and I must put this away - he hates to have me write a word" (327). She has her own ideas and thoughts that she would like to express. "I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little, it would relieve the press of ideas, and rest me" (328). The way women were treated then "It is so discouraging not to have any advice; and companionship about their work" (328). The narrator's situation could have been avoided, if her husband had listened to the warning signs and allowed her the small pleasures she delighted in. The confinement of the yellow wallpapered room allowed the unspoken oppression of her life to manifest and later lead to her suicide.
"Bed Rest Wouldn't Do for Pioneering Feminist." USA Today Magazine 139.2777 (2010): 4-5. Print.
Fisher Younger, Karen. "Women's Sphere and the Public Square: The Beecher Sisters' Dilemma Over Slavery." International Congressional Journal 8.2 (2009): 43-51. Print.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Kennedy and Gioia 325-336.
Kennedy, X.J., and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 6th Compact ed. New York: Longman, 2010. Print