The Yellow Wall-Paper Literary Analysis Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses her short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper” to show how women undergo oppression by gender roles. Gilman does so by taking the reader through the terrors of one woman’s changes in mental state. The narrator in this story becomes so oppressed by her husband that she actually goes insane. The act of oppression is very obvious within the story “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and shows how it changes one’s life forever. The story begins with the narrator’s use of dramatic irony which already tells the reader that something is suspicious about her. John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage” (508 Gilman). The narrator, which is unknown, states her husband, John, laughs at her but she expects it. In a good marriage, one does not expect their spouse to laugh at them. Even from the first paragraphs, it is obvious the narrator allows herself to be inferior to men. She minimizes herself several more times throughout the story. “So I take my phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is – and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again” (508 Gilman).
The narrator’s husband is a high standing physician and gives her drugs that will supposedly help her get well. The section “phosphates or phosphites” gets my attention. A first read of these lines might cause the reader to think she is just a normal woman being prescribed drugs. However, the narrator does not know exactly what type of drugs she is taking. John sees his wife as another patient and nothing else. You see, she takes them simply because her husband is a physician and says they will help her. John is clearly in control of her. Also, the narrator states she is forbidden to work until she is well.
John is making sure she does not try to do any type of work at all. He has strict orders for her, one of them being to stay in bed. There are signs of oppression on the first page and more will come. The next quote explains to the reader what types of items are located in the room John chose for the narrator. “It was a nursery first and then a playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls” (509 Gilman). Here, the narrator explains to the reader that there are bars on the windows and chained rings coming from the walls.
The narrator’s use of the words “barred” and “rings” make it very clear that this room was never made for children; it was made to control and isolate a mentally ill person. Convincingly, John told her the nursery was the most ideal place for her to rest and get well. Being lesser than John, the narrator has no authority over him. She has no choice. He controls what she does no matter how she is feeing. From the first glance, the reader can understand that this room was not designed for children. Furthermore into the story, the narrator states she enjoys writing.
She feels better when she writes, as if it is healthy for her. She writes, “There comes John, and I must put this away – he hates to have me write a word” (509 Gilman). The most important part regarding this statement is John has told her to discontinue her writing all together because it is unhealthy for her. John has shattered her self-confidence by controlling her; therefore she does not say a word regarding the relief writing brings her. The reader must recognize the phrase “he hates me to write a word” to understand the full emphasis of how John feels about his wife writing.
She is becoming awfully depressed because of his oppression. More so, John says everything he is doing is helping her get well. She is his main concern. Again, because of John’s utmost control, the narrator does not tell him she is not feeling any better. She cannot share her feelings with him for he will laugh at her. In this quote, John says, “and really dear, I don’t care to renovate the house just for three months’ rental” (510 Gilman). Here, John states he is not going to change the wallpaper because they will only be in the house for three months. The key words in this line are “three months”.
These words mean the narrator has to stay in the room with the barred windows and hideous, yellow wallpaper for a total of three months. These keywords might be missed if read over too quickly. The quote needs to be read slowly to realize what is happening. The reason they are only there for three months is because the treatment John has given her is going to take three months. The narrator does not realize this. Under his rule, she cannot stop the treatment. With the ending near, the narrator gradually descends into madness. While examining the wallpaper closely at night she narrates, “The woman behind it shakes it! she writes, “and she crawls around fast and her crawling shakes it all over. ” “And in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard” (Gilman 516). The woman that the narrator sees is actually herself. It is a projection of her because she cannot escape John’s control just how the woman cannot escape the wallpaper. Her illness has become so great she thinks a woman is shaking the wallpaper around the entire room. The problem here is John’s treatment. It has caused her to believe in ghostly objects that do not exist. The phrase, “her crawling shakes it all over” shows how John’s treatment has affected her.
The narrator crawls and creeps around the room. She goes around in circles over and over again with no hesitation. Another phrase, “she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. ” This is the narrator shaking the barred windows trying to escape the room. The narrator knows you cannot escape because “nobody could climb through that pattern – it strangles so;” (517 Gilman). This compares to John’s control. He “strangles” her with his treatment. The narrator is trying to express her feelings but she cannot because the wallpaper consumers her every minute. Her feelings cannot escape the room; they are within the yellow wall-paper.
Finally, the woman completely loses all sense of stability and becomes mentally deranged. The narrator has had enough. Her feelings are finally able to escape. “I’ve gotten out at last, in spite of you and Jane! And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back” (Gilman 519)! John’s treatment and oppression have made the narrator completely insane. She has finally “gotten out” from John’s control. A new name emerges, Jane, which is the narrator. The narrator has pulled the wallpaper off and she cannot be put back up. The narrator believes it is a separate person but in fact, it is her. Jane” escaped the wallpaper just like the narrator escaped the control of John. In the final analysis, John comes home to see what has happened to his wife. The narrator writes; “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time” (519 Gilman)! This is by far the creepiest and most mysterious part of the story. John sees what she is doing and faints right into the path of her “creeping. ” The narrator had to “creep” around the entire room, crawling against the wall over John’s lifeless body. And now, the narrator was in control.
John could do absolutely nothing to stop her. She could do as she pleases. If you look closely, the words “every time” emphasize that John never awoke. He was dead as the psychotic narrator crept over him. He could no longer control her ever again. As a final point, this text leaves the reader with many predictions and questions that cannot be completely answered. Gilman’s short story proves how a man’s control can affect one’s life forever. The oppression and mental abuse show the narrator’s difficulty living within this unequal climate. This story can put a little “creep” into anyone as it did with myself.