Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper as a feminist text”

Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper as a feminist text”

Summary of the text

The short story titled “The Yellow Wallpaper” begins with a woman and her husband John who is a doctor. The woman, who also happens to be the narrator, has recently been diagnosed with a mental disorder and needs to be accommodated in a safe place. The husband books her into a rather expensive facility in a room that is not of her liking. Whereas she preferred a lower room, the husband’s opinion prevails as is always the case due to his immense knowledge as a doctor.

The story then focuses on the time she spends in this room and its yellow wallpaper. She really desires to journal and read but her husband forbids this and as a result she is forced to do this in secret. Since her window is blocked out, all she gets to see throughout the day is her yellow wallpaper and this is regularly interrupted by checkups by her husband. The more she looks at the wallpaper the more she sees patterns on it. Soon enough she begins to see a woman who is behind bars in the patterns on the wallpaper and as a result she resolves to free her by ripping the wallpaper off the wall. When her husband finds her doing this he faints and she crawls over him as the story ends.

Feminist Elements in the story

One of the prime motivators of the feminist movement has been the subjugation of women by men who subject them to a sub-standard life of second class citizens who have significantly less rights and privileges. In the story, right from the beginning, this image of men as tyrants is clearly presented through the situation that the author has found herself in. She has been diagnosed with an illness but is being denied a chance to decide where she will stay while recuperating. The excuse given for the husband’s triumph in the argument is his knowledge. This too is another feminist argument which states that the intellect of women is considered inferior in many a paternalistic society (Hedges 233).

The result of this is the denial of their freewill and rights to make decisions regarding even their own bodies. The same way she is denied the choice of room is the same way that women are denied the decision about the fate of unborn children in the controversial arguments about abortion in contemporary times. This is strange considering the fact that the body is hers and not the man’s yet it is the man who is keen on making decisions regarding it.

Another feminist perspective that can be seen in this story is the limitation of women’s rights to be intellectually empowered. The narrator greatly desires to engage in journaling and reading as well as having a room that has a better view. She is instead forced to stay in a room that has the annoying yellow wallpaper. For a long time, women were generally locked out from academia or forced to make do with bottlenecks found along the system. As a result, very few literary or academic works by women saw the light of day and this essentially meant that a great deal of available literature was authored by men yet imposed on women. The blacking out of her windows signifies her being denied exposure to the outside world (Treichler, 61).

In feminism, it is believed that the constant undermining of women’s rights leaves them worse off despite the fact that the oppressive men think they are doing something noble. Her doctor husband believed he was helping her when in reality the confinement led to sensory deprivation which then made her increasingly exhibit signs of dementia. Psychiatrists believe that denying the brain information leads it to come up with its own. This is exactly what happens to the narrator and she ends up tracing patterns on the yellow wallpaper. These patterns include that of a woman trapped behind bars. This suggests that women who are oppressed feel like they are locked up in a prison with no possible escape.

The fact that she proceeds to tear up the wallpaper in an effort to free the trapped woman signifies the resilience that women who are in her position have despite the challenging situations they live in. This narrator’s actions also surprise her husband who is shocked to the point of losing consciousness. When she symbolically frees the trapped woman, her husband is rendered powerless hence her crawling over him to symbolize the victory of women over chauvinistic attitudes and elements in society. The man’s fainting is suggestive of the fact that women can indeed overcome the constant undermining that they are subjected to. This action will prove to men that women too can take charge of their lives in the best way they know.

In conclusion it is safe to state that “The yellow wallpaper” is a story that adequately represents feminist ideology not just by rallying people behind the cause but also through the provision of a foundation for the arguments made in favor of feminist sentiments and their justifications (Shumaker 590).

Works Cited

Treichler, P. A. (1984). Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in” The Yellow Wallpaper”. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, 3(1/2), 61-77.

Hedges, E. R. (1992). ‘Out at Last’?’The Yellow Wallpaper’after Two Decades of Feminist Criticism. Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 222-33.

Shumaker, C. (1985). Too Terribly Good to Be Printed”: Charlotte Gilman’s” The Yellow Wallpaper. American literature, 57(4), 588-599.

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