The Woman Behind The Wallpaper

1171 words - 5 pages

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins depicts how many women of the 19th century were suffering from the oppression of a male dominated society. This short story is extremely personal as Perkins draws inspiration from her own experiences, and through her writing she channels all her feelings and thoughts about how women were medically treated during this time period. Her purpose for writing “The Yellow Wallpaper” was in hopes that physicians, specifically Dr. Weir Mitchell, would read the short story and change their method of treatment. The narrator of the story represents Perkins, and the woman in the wallpaper represents all women of the 1800’s, including Perkins, and their struggle ...view middle of the document...

“If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression−a slight hysterical tendency−what is one to do? My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing…Personally, I disagree with their ideas…But what is one to do?”(Perkins 437, 9-14) Women during this time period were not able to express their thoughts and ideas without judgment, and so the narrator is forced to keep to herself and write in secret.
The narrator describes the room she will be staying in, which is at the top of the house, and says, “It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore…the windows are barred…and there are rings and things in the walls”(Perkins 437, 31-32). Very often in literature, houses represent the human body and the top of the house normally represents the mind. The narrator is alone in her room often, and the windows symbolize her sense of creativity and openness, however, the windows are barred and the “rings and things” she described symbolize a mental prison where the constraints of her oppression do not allow her to speak her mind. After staying in the room for a couple nights she develops an obsession with the wallpapers pattern, she stares at it, she follows its pattern relentlessly, and finally she concludes that, “there is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes” (Perkins 441, line 121). “At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be…By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still” (Perkins 443, lines 149-151). The daylight represents the men during the 19th century, always watching, and always trying to keep women in a domestic role; however, when the men go to sleep and the moonlight shines in onto the walls, the woman behind the wallpaper becomes apparent as she struggles and tries to break free from her constraints.
At first the narrator hates the wallpaper because of the...

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