Free At Last
When a reader first reads The Yellow Wallpaper it appears to be a story of a young woman suffering from post pardum depression that slowly ends in the total loss of reality. However, understanding that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an early feminist, and her writings share a common theme that women do not have an equal human status in society, the story takes on a whole new meaning. The author’s creative use of symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper allows the reader an inside look of a young woman’s struggle to free herself from society’s “norm”. The author’s use of setting and symbolism perfectly represents the male dominant society in the Victorian era that believed a women’s place was in the home. The author carefully constructed her sentences and symbols to produce a picture of arrogant and creepy male oppression.
The story opens with the young woman describing the house as a “colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity—but that would be asking too much of fate!” (168). The author uses this symbolism to describe the different roles a woman played. The colonial mansion describes her as a wife and a hereditary estate that of a m
The young woman comes to the realization that "If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little" (179). The strangled heads in the paper symbolize women whose careers and goals have been choked by male dominance. Bits of paper still remained and although she made great strides in freeing herself from the dominance of her husband there was still work to be done in terms of true social and economic equality and that it will not be easy to break the dominance that men have enjoyed for so long. I find it hovering in the dining room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs. "By daylight she is subdued, quiet. The young woman"tms fascination with the ugly paper begins as an innocent annoyance, builds to a pastime, and turns into an obsession. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it" (222). Although she felt no animosity toward her husband, the marriage itself was more like a prison. Women were thought to be property and treated like children. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still" (176). The haunted house alludes to the fact that a woman during this time had to hide any signs of intelligence or creativity. It is the wallpaper, though, that is the focal point of the story, and it holds within it many descriptive symbols for the creepy discrimination and oppression of women.