The short story “The Yellow Paper” is told by the narrator, a woman, who has just given birth. The story depicts the narrator’s tumble into madness. The setting is an isolated room that is occupied for a summer holiday. The narrator’s husband John is a physician, who believes and appreciates feminism. John prefers his wife to stay indoors and have a rest after giving birth to their child. It is notable that the narrator is suffering from postpartum psychosis. The fact that the woman is left in an upstairs room against her wish is a clear indication of the aspect of feminism attributed to the Victorian society. The condition of the room is deplorable. The walls are covered by the dirty and half-peeled wallpaper (Gilman 13). Despite of this condition, John and his sister Jennie do not recognize this; instead, they try to comfort the woman. It should be mentioned that these two characters worsen the condition of the narrator due to their insensitivity.
The woman wonders why her husband does not see and feel what she is experiencing. In essence, John and Jennie are problematic according to the narrator’s expression. For instance, on the last day the narrator refuses to open. When John manages to break into the room, he faints after seeing what his wife has done; however, she does not bother (Gilman 13). This indicates the extent to which the woman believes that her husband is the facilitator of her condition. It is evident that a lot can be learnt from the setting of this story as it depicts a deep discrimination against women and indicates the position or niche occupied by women in the Victorian society. The isolated room covered by the old yellow wallpaper is disturbing. The narrator is disturbed by its deplorable nature. In addition, a deep internalization and observation of the wallpaper creates a horrible imagery in her mind. It is noticeable that the woman believes that there is another woman appearing in the wallpaper, who is trying so hard to get out of the wallpaper (Gilman 17).
This situation is a replica of what the narrator is trying to do. She tries to get out of the room but the strong bars limit her moving. This context represents the situation common to the Victorian society, where women were trying to get out of the feminism chains and discrimination in vain (Gilman 16). It should be noted that the narrator expresses her anger in peeling off the wallpaper and rolling round the perimeter of the room. However, John, who is the primary protagonist in this story, does not see anything wrong. Moreover, he believes that his wife should remain calm in the isolated room in order to recover from the illness.
In essence, the protagonist’s mind or thoughts remain unconscious and stable. Women’s liberation and freedom are not approved and this is evidenced when John faints after realizing what his wife has done in the room. In addition, the setting becomes disturbing when the woman imagines that John and Jennie know about her behavior (Gilman 15). This situation prompts the woman to keep the discoveries she realized in the wallpaper in a secret. The narrator becomes paranoid believing that somebody has stuck in the wallpaper. Thus, the woman starts thinking that she is the only person who can uncover the secrets of the wallpaper. Obviously, the stimuli of the room are confined to that of the break neck pattern of the wallpaper, which the narrator describes as yellow, smelly and parched wallpaper. She even starts believing that the woman in the wallpaper is creeping. It is imperative to note that the main heroine believes that she will free the woman in the wallpaper by stripping the remaining paper.
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The behavior of John and Jennie is attributed to the deterioration of the woman’s condition. However, the immense influence comes from the wallpaper. The poor woman feels neglected by the closest people, especially when John indicates that this isolated room is the right place for her to rest. On the other hand, Jennie realizes the thoughts and pain experienced by the woman. What is more, she slowly accepts her way of thinking by acknowledging that nothing is wrong and by peeling off the ugly wallpaper (Gilman 12). It is notable that Jennie remains silent as if nothing had happened in the room, which is a clear depiction of women’s reaction on feminism. Jennie realizes the need for a liberated mind.
In conclusion, the narrator tries to make the reader understand the struggles underwent by the women in the isolated room. It is notable that the author’s intention is to make the reader understand that in the Victorian society, women were chained by the strong forces of feminism. The wallpaper represents the Victorian society. The women were almost isolated by the men (Gilman 13). The narrator manages to break the chain of feminism exhibited in the Victorian society by peeling off the wallpaper. The aspect of depicting women in a patriarchal medical setting as powerless, silent and less active is defeated when the main heroine breaks the wallpaper and John faints after seeing this scene. It is notable that the narrator successfully uses insanity to dissent the medical and professional subjugation of women. She disapproves the male doctors who were acting with their egocentric interest in mind. Furthermore, she fights for the freedom of women in the Victorian society.