During the nineteenth century women were viewed as homemakers, not able to perform in society with men. They were degraded and debased by men to believe that they were worth almost nothing, only worthy of bearing children. This superfluous male domination lead to many women feeling trapped in their own homes, unable to escape from the confinements placed on them by their husbands. An illumination of these confines was accounted by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a feminist writer of the nineteenth century, in her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”. In this story, Gilman portrays herself as a woman who is suffering from post-partum depression. The woman is locked away from society in a confined room, only to drive herself even more insane. The author uses this nameless narrator in attempts to gain her position against gender issues and break down the barriers of male domination. Throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman challenges the reader to question feminist stances and gender boundaries of the 19th century using specific symbols of gendered spaces, but also uses these devices to allow the reader to become connected with the facts of life women experienced during this time.
Women in the 19th Century had many reasons t
In the first sentence the narrator states, "It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer" (Gilman 243). In the middle of the story, one can see her mental state digressing as she begins to examine the wallpaper. I start at the bottom down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of conclusion" (248). At first it appeared that he meant to re-paper the room, but afterward he said how Jane was letting it get the better of her. It is the narrator behind the bars and stuck in the wallpaper waiting for the walls to be broken in society so that she can be at the same level as her husband. Further emphasizing the idea of a male dominated society, the author chooses to portray the insanity through a myriad of symbolic spaces and perceptions of gender within this time period. This was common, as many men in the nineteenth-century also felt they had the ability to rob women of the rights they had. In the context of the time period, what women thought was of no importance, and it was abnormal for a woman to go insane. Although the narrator describes her feelings about the paper, the author uses this color to give us a sense of melancholy and depression. This woman trapped in the wallpaper is the narrator in symbol form. Women had to work hard for their place in society, and this struggle is shown through the feminist work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. As the story progresses the narrator alone believes that she is sane, while John believes whole heartily that his wife has gone mad. She describes the garden as "large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them" (244). Women were not considered able to perform tasks in the work place, and were not able to obtain their own careers.