The Yellow Wallpaper Research Paper
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is a classic feminist literary piece of work that tells a story about a woman in the first person point of view who is anguishing from a fleeting nervous depression and a minor hysterical inclination. It is a short story representing women’s health, focusing on the mental illness and disorder caused by the issues they experience because of the society’s connotation of womanhood (Gilbert). Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s purpose in writing The Yellow Wallpaper is to symbolize the subjugation of women in society, which is often dominated by men. The culmination and conflicts that are present in this short story take place when readers discover that the woman narrating the story has completely gone insane and has ripped off the peculiar yellow wallpaper covering the walls of her room so that she can be freed up. Arguments arise caused by the fact that the story depicts the feministic views of the author and her purpose of refurbishing society’s treatment on women. This short story is a delineation of the gender inequalities that exist in the health system during the nineteenth century.
Analysis of the Character's Mental Condition
One of the illnesses embodied by the short story is schizophrenia. It is said that this disease is most often visible to young women who are suffering from the exacerbation of their mental and psychological being. A person with schizophrenia experiences figments of the imagination, phantasm and apparitions, seeing and believing in things that are not true and are not really present in reality. This condition can be a product of mental suffering due to muddled thoughts, dwindled attention span and some problems in focusing on one thing one period at a time (Hafner). Characteristically, those schizophrenic people depart themselves with other people. There are some points in the story that this indication or symptom happens to the protagonist in the story.
Another mental disorder associated with how the woman in the story behaves is the Dissociative identity disorder or DID, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. This kind of health mayhem is experienced by people who are dejected and disheartened by the events in their lives and are at the depths of despair or are suicidal at some point. Some of the people who have this kind of disorder also have problems pertaining to aural or visual delirium or hallucinations. The female narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper is possibly suffering from Schizophrenia or Dissociative identity disorder since it has been depicted that being stuck in her room surrounded by the yellow wallpaper resulted in her losing her sanity and her freedom. On the other hand Suess asserts that the narrator’s condition was leading to postpartum psychotic delirium (79).
The trauma and bad memories the experience and the yellow wallpaper gave her can trigger mental failures and can be the cause of long time psychological dilemma. What she really needs is the comfort from the people around her and the free will to do what she really wants to do and what will make her happy and contented. The medical remedies for this can be found in the things and on people that she perceives is satisfying and genuine for her.
Health System and Gender Inequalities during the Nineteenth Century
This power inequality extends to factors that can be affected by the beliefs of the society and the disparity between men and women (Weller). Portraying their role in the society and in literature, women are frequently exposed in an arrangement that is subjugated by men. Principally during the nineteenth century, women were restricted or constrained by men especially their husbands. In story The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator of the story is demoralized by her husband because of her illness. This story demonstrates what happens when society underestimates women (Sant).
In a research conducted in the 1970s, which aimed to determine doctors’ attitudes towards patients, it was found that the least troublesome patient was identified as male, middle-class, employed, intelligent, and had an easily treatable organic illness whereas the most troublesome patient was identified as female, working-class, unemployed, inadequate, and possessed psychiatric illness symptoms that were difficult to diagnose or treat (Oakley 36). This illustrated the bias against women and implied that women were weaker.
Another focus that has been discussed in the short story is all about gender diversity and its effect on women’s health and sanity. The differences between males and females in the society can be the determinants of health and illnesses of women as well as the degree to which women are excluded from rights to proper education and participation in politics, which may affect their health and intellectual capabilities (Vlassof). In this short story, the woman is suffering from depression because she thinks that her husband is restricting her from enjoying her life outside the yellow wallpapered room. In the nineteenth century, women were expected to play the roles of a mother, sister, and wife (Quawas35). They were expected to possess the attributes of domesticity, submissiveness, purity, and piety. They were believed to be powerful, contented, and happy in their home and that this could not be matched by any amount of wealth achievement or fame (Quawas 35). Hence, the woman is indeed anguishing with schizophrenia and dissociative personality disorder.
Women's Health in Literature
Many literary works and short stories have been written during the nineteenth century that portrays the condition of women’s health, focusing on the mental imbalance and the effect of patriarchy. William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily is one of the examples of literary piece of psychological story concerning an insane old woman who kept a lifeless man in her house for several years. Conceivable, women in the nineteenth century were repressed due to the biases contained by the health care system, signaling an entrenched sexist concern and the prejudices that women are facing, attributable to their deficiency in familiarity, influence and supremacy in a society dominated by men. Similarly, The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar depicts the yellow wallpaper as symbolizing the society’s oppressive structure (Suess 80). On the other hand, Voices of Hope by Helen L. Shore (as cited in Geller 837) aimed to portray the interactions between clubhouse staff, clubhouse members, and the clubhouse structure where the clubhouse members all suffered from persistent and serious mental conditions
The yellow wallpaper in the story is a symbol of the narrator’s mind set and feelings at that moment in her life when she feels that the boundaries and unequal treatment between the rights of men and women are stretched out by the society. The wallpaper has been the depiction of her detention or captivity and by ripping it down; she believes that this is also like releasing herself from the confinement. With nothing to kindle her, she becomes fixated onthe pattern and shade of the wallpaper of her room. It also stands for the manner in which women were supposed to perceive things at some point in the nineteenth century.
In actual fact, the story is a compelling fictional interpretation of a mental illness experienced by women. The female narrator fell into having a dissociative schizophrenia as an upshot of her husband's assertion that she should steer clear of all psychological stimuli.
Stuck in a room covered by obscure arabesque patterned yellow wallpaper, the female narrator begins to have delusions. The author places the readers to venture within the mind of a woman who is sliding down into psychosis.
Geller, J. L. “Book Reviews: Personal Accounts by Users and Providers of Mental Health
Services. Psychiatric Services 55.7 (2004): 837-841. Print.
Gilbert, K. “The Yellow Wallpaper: An Autobiography of Emotions” fcgu.edu. Web. n.d.
Hafner, H. “The Concept of Schizophrenia: From Unity to Diversity.” hindawi.com. Web. 2004.
Oakley, Ann. “Beyond the Yellow Wallpaper.” Reproductive Health Matters 5.10 (1997): 29-39.
Quawas, Rula. “A New Woman’s Journey into Insanity: Descent and Return in The Yellow
Wallpaper.” Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature
Association 2006.105 (2006): 35-53. Print.
Sant, L. “The Yellow Wallpaper: A Twist on Conventional Symbols.” commnet.edu. Web. n.d.
Subotsky, F. “The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Psychiatrists in 19th
century fiction.” rcpsych.org. BJPsych. Web. 30 June 2009.
Suess, Barbara A. “The Writing’s on the Wall Symbolic Orders in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Women’s Studies 32 (2003): 79-97. Print.
Vlassof, C. “Gender Differences in Determinants and Consequences of Health and Illness.”
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. Web. 2007 Mar 25
Weller, L. “Feminism and Symbolism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, The Yellow Wallpaper.”
academia.edu. Academia Online. Web. n.d.
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