The Yellow Wallpaper Research Essay

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As a leading feminist lecturer and writer, Gilman found other options than madness to end her confinement in traditional definitions of womanhood.

Eventually, Gilman divorced her husband, who married her best friend, and her husband and her best friend reared her child.

Gilman’s main purpose in writing is to condemn not only a specific medical treatment but also the misogynistic principles and resulting sexual politics that make such a treatment possible.

The unequal relationship between the narrator and John is a microcosm of the larger gender inequity in society.

In that volume he wrote: "Now that I have it in my collection, I shiver over it as much as I did when I first read it in manuscript, though I agree with the editor of The Atlantic of the time that it was too terribly good to be printed." It was not until 1973, when it was republished after being out of print for years, that the first lengthy analysis of the story was written by Elaine R. Writing in the afterword to the volume, she stated that '"The Yellow Wallpaper' is a small literary masterpiece" and a work that "does deserve the widest possible audience." Since then, "The Yellow Wallpaper" has received widespread critical attention.

Contemporary scholars have interpreted the story in numerous ways, with feminist readings being the most common."The Yellow Wallpaper" commands attention not only for the harrowing journey into madness it portrays, but also for its realism.It comes as no surprise, then, to discover that the "The Yellow Wallpaper" is autobiographical. She was suffering from depression, "nervous prostration" as diagnosed by the doctor, after the birth of her daughter.Physicians, who actually had little knowledge of the inner workings of the female body, presented complex theories arguing that the womb created hysteria and madness, that it was the source of women’s inferiority.Ministers urged women to fulfill their duty to God and their husbands with equal submission and piety.If Gilman's narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper" regressed into her insanity, Gilman certainly did not; unlike the narrator she created, she made her voice heard.She pursued her career as a writer and lecturer, and she wrote works of theory and social commentary that brought her international fame.The public, friends, and family so sharply censured Gilman for her actions that she knew many women would stay in unhealthy situations rather than risk such condemnation.By having the story end with the narrator’s descent into insanity, Gilman laments the reality that few viable options exist for creative, intellectual women to escape the damaging social definitions of womanhood represented by John.Deprived of any meaningful activity, purpose, and self-definition, the narrator’s mind becomes confused and, predictably, childlike in its fascination with the shadows in the wallpaper.In the end, the narrator triumphs over John—she literally crawls over him—but escapes from him only into madness.


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