The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman presents the struggle of a woman who is suffering through depression and postpartum psychosis, yet she must overcome her mental illness in order to save herself. The protagonist’s identity crisis becomes apparent when her physician assigns her to bed rest for her own health. The introduction of the wallpaper within the story shows how important the room is to the protagonist’s sense of self. The yellow wallpaper becomes a sort of companion, which she describes in her journal entries, even though it holds no physical form.
The protagonist struggles with this illness not only physically but emotionally as well. The introduction of this creature takes its toll on her own sense of self. The protagonist cannot come to terms with who she is or what she wants because she is too caught up in her inner struggle. The main character stereotypes herself through the idea that “women are meant to be seen and not heard” (Gilman). She puts up the facade that women should remain submissive and allow men to make all decisions for them.
The story implies how much power women lost when they gained the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment. The protagonist only gains her power back at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper when she is able to destroy the wallpaper and discover herself. The protagonist’s self-actualization occurs when she destroys all traces of her past identity in order to become a whole person. The idea that “women are meant to be seen and not heard” poses significant challenges for women who are suffering from mental illness, because it makes them feel as if their voice does not matter, even within themselves.
The story is important because it illustrates how gender stereotypes play an integral role in shaping individual identities, especially through mental illness. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3 rd ,, in Hartford Connecticut (Castle, The Restless Dream). The story The Yellow Wallpaper takes place in the nineteenth century, which is apparent by the architecture of the buildings and other physical aspects (Tobin). The narrator’s husband said he found The Yellow Wallpaper in “the garret” among some old books.
The fact that he finds it among old things implies that this story may have taken place long ago. This helps establish a sense of time and place for this story to take place. The main character is suffering from depression and postpartum psychosis, causing her to become obsessed with the wallpaper within her room. She begins noticing patterns within the wallpaper that are not really there, causing her to believe she sees another woman trapped behind it.
The wall paper becomes a sort of companion for her, even though it holds no physical form. The protagonist says in her journal that “the woman behind the wall is creeping around,” and seems to be a reflection of herself (Gilman). The story implies how women who are suffering from mental illness begin internalizing their problems. The protagonist cannot come to terms with who she is or what she wants because she is too caught up in her inner struggle, which causes an identity crisis within herself.
The idea that “women are meant to be seen and not heard” poses significant challenges for women who are suffering from mental illness, because it makes them feel as if their voice does not matter, even within themselves (Gilman). The fact that the main character has been given this room to herself, rather than sharing it with her husband or children implies that she is not fulfilling the gender role of motherhood properly. The protagonist feels as if the room belongs to her alone because she is suffering from mental illness and isolation due to motherhood (Tobin).
The fact that the character has repainted the room yellow adds another dimension to this story. The author may have added this detail to show how much power women lost when they gained the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment (Gilman). The way in which Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses repetition within The Yellow Wallpaper makes it clear how important it is for this story’s concept. The walls are described as “yellow” five times throughout this short story, showing how significant this color really is (Gilman). The protagonist refers to the wallpaper as “yellow” in her thoughts multiple times throughout The Yellow Wallpaper.
The repetition of this word indicates how trapped the main character feels, showing how important it is for Charlotte Perkins Gilman to have used it within her story (). The phrase “the yellow wallpaper” may seem insignificant at first, but becomes increasingly significant until the last sentence of The Yellow Wallpaper where it appears for a final time. The protagonist’s mental illness begins manifesting itself through repainting her room yellow, understanding “patterns in things,” and feeling as if she sees something moving behind the wall paper (Gilman).
The way in which Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses mental illness as a theme within The Yellow Wallpaper makes it clear how important this issue was during the 1800s. The protagonist says, “I never felt any thing in the world like this horrible sensation of constant fear,” showing how much she is suffering from her mental illness (Gilman). The fact that this character’s husband has no sympathy for her shows how little he understands what she is going through, which adds to the importance of Gilman using women who are suffering from mental illness as a theme within The Yellow Wallpaper.
The main character says “there’s something behind the paper… I know there is” because she begins seeing patterns where they do not exist due to her mental state. The fact that Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses hallucination within The Yellow Wallpaper makes it clear how significant this detail is to this story. The protagonist sees dark “snake-like” figures within the pattern of the wallpaper behind her bed, which leads her to believe that there is a woman trapped inside (Gilman).
The fact that she feels as if she can see a figure moving behind the wall paper makes it clear how terrible her mental illness truly is. The protagonist says “there’s a woman creeping around in here,” explaining how much fear and paranoia she has been experiencing due to being alone with no one who understands what she is going through (Gilman). The way Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses loneliness as a theme within The Yellow Wallpaper makes it clear how important this issue was for women during the 1800s.
The protagonist’s fear of someone creeping behind the wallpaper makes it clear how alone she felt within her own home, which would have been a common feeling for women at this time (Gilman). The protagonist says “he does not see them… he could not stand what I stand,” referring to her husband who is unable to understand how terrified she is because she sees things that do not exist (Gilman). The protagonist feels as if her husband does not love or even like her especially when he says, “I’m getting willing to agree with Jeff- you haven’t seemed yourself lately” (Gilman).