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The Yellow Wallpaper

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Essay title: The Yellow Wallpaper

“The Yellow Wallpaper” which was written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman told the story of a woman that was nearly driven to insanity while being treated for a nervous breakdown. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a victim of misdiagnoses tells her story in her style expressing her thoughts in which she believes they transpired.

The conflicts include the narrator against her husband, as well as the setting in which the story takes place and finally conflicts within herself. The conflict between her and her husband is that she doesn’t believe her husband knows how sick she really is. His feelings are to take her away for some relaxation and air, and not to write or work; that these activities would make her more excitable and weak. The conflict she has with the setting deals with the bedroom wallpaper in which she goes through stages of obsession to the point of insanity. The conflict she has with herself is her inability to communicate her feelings with her husband, and her inability to control her own feeling and actions. The narrator thinks of herself as an ordinary person who is estimated to be of age 32 with a doctor as a husband and one baby. It is almost immediate that she proclaims her illness. She states that she suffers from a nervous depression, or slight hysterical tendencies. She realizes what is good for her own health yet continues to obey her husband’s commands on the surface. She is sly and defies her husband by writing behind his back. Her surroundings catapult her nervous compulsions with the wallpaper, and she now begins to justify what she sees to be real. She surrenders herself to her own paranoia.

It is obvious that Perkins has described in no uncertain words that the story is a true reflection of her own life. Charlotte Perkins Gilman states not only in the story but that she herself spent a month in a sanitarium treated by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. How do you view this story that was written in 1892? Some people view this as a ghost story; others view this as a feminist story. Perhaps it’s a story simply of a woman’s point of view.

Charlotte’s names several characters in the story, an unnamed woman, her husband John, John’s sister Jennie and she mentions a baby. John is a physician who “has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures”. (Page 334) The woman in the story believes that her husband does not see her as being ill; although she contends with her own demons she has struggled with for years. Jennie, John’s sister is a housekeeper and a caregiver to the woman in the story. Jennie tends to the woman’s needs while John is away.

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