Themes in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Short Story by Gilman
The essay focuses on a short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, during the analysis of which the main themes of the work and the author’s attitude to them are established. In the center of the story is the unnamed main character, on whose behalf the story is written. The story is a narrative presented in the format of entries in a secret diary. The story takes place at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, in an era when mental deviations were little studied.
The main character is obviously experiencing something that in the future would be called postpartum syndrome. Her state of stress prompts her to move into a new home with her husband, a doctor named John, who has taken on the task of prescribing her treatment. The heroine’s treatment is to be imprisoned in a room with a complete ban on any productive activity. However, instead of getting better, the main character gradually goes crazy, concentrating more and more on the mysterious and frightening yellow wallpaper pasted over her room.
The story at first seems like a rather haunting and mystical work that can be attributed to Gothic literature or horror fiction. However, upon closer analysis, it becomes obvious that he is a deep and bitter satire on the position of women in society. The heroine in her notes periodically hints that it would be much easier for her if she had an adequate opportunity to think, act and express herself.
At the same time, it should be noted that in the very description of the yellow wallpaper that drives her crazy, there is an exceptional taste and knowledge of the history of culture and aesthetics. The heroine is a well-read and sophisticated person, and her right to think and work are inalienable. However, in the realities of the story, she turns out to be deprived of the opportunity to act. It happens since the rejection of thought, the taboo on reflection should help her get better in accordance with the simplified concepts of that time. John, the husband of the protagonist, actually embodies the rational side of his era, which does not want to show empathy or understanding and disguises it behind an insensitive and blind logic.
The ending of the work, which includes the release of a mysterious “crawling girl” from under the back of the wallpaper, appears to be especially demanding clarification. This image seems worthy of comment as the embodiment of the main character’s secret desires for freedom. Precisely because her personal freedoms were suppressed to such a deep and fundamental degree, the woman is presented crawling, that is, practically humiliated to a state lower than a man. At the climax of the story, the main character sees many faceless women crawling outside the window in the garden. This directly implies that her madness is a metaphor for the whole social problem of gender inequality.
The yellow wallpaper in the story is only an object on which all the unrealized frustrations and creative impulses of the heroine are transferred. Accumulating and forming into something more destructive and concrete, these impulses as a result burst out. That is why John faints at the end of the story, and the main character begins to crawl over him over and over again. The husband cannot even recognize the person he was trying to cure. At the same time, the realized but crippled femininity of the main character remains only to symbolically prove her superiority over him.