The Yellow Wallpaper Research Essay
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.
As women’s reform movements gained the strength that would eventually win the vote in 1920, the backlash became more vicious and dangerous.
Noted psychologists detailed theories that “proved” women’s developmental immaturity, low cognitive skills, and emotional instability.
"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.
In her horrifying depiction of a housewife gone mad, Gilman attempts to warn her readership that denying women full humanity is dangerous to women, family, and society as a whole.
Hedges concluded that the story is ''one of the rare pieces of literature we have by a nineteenth-century woman which directly confronts the sexual politics of the male-female,...Gilman makes John the window through which readers can view the negative images of women in her society.In Gilman’s lifetime, women’s right to become full citizens and to vote became one of the primary issues debated in the home, the media, and the political arena.Charlotte Perkins Gilman used her personal bout with postpartum depression to create a powerful fictional narrative which has broad implications for women.When the narrator recognizes that there is more than one trapped, creeping woman, Gilman indicates that the meaning of her story extends beyond an isolated, individual situation.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.In indicting John’s patronizing treatment of his wife, Gilman indicts the system as a whole, in which many women were trapped behind damaging social definitions of the female.One can see the negative effects of John’s (and society’s) treatment of the narrator in her response to the rest cure.