The Yellow Wallpaper Argumentative Essay
“It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work” (Gilman).
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is the author of “The Yellow Wallpaper”. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut. She wrote over two hundred short stories and ten novels. Gilman was a voracious reader and largely self-educated (Charlotte). The short story was written to show how women were belittled in a male dominated society.
The main character, Jane, lives her life in a room with yellow wallpaper. Her husband, John, and sister, Mary, take care of Jane while she tries to break free from the restrictions by which women are bound. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins- Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper through symbols, dialogue and character. To begin with, Gilman uses “The Yellow Wallpaper” as the key symbol in the short story. The wallpaper was a representation of prison that women were locked behind.
Some tried to break free from these restrictions, which is demonstrated through the quote, “The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many woman behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over” (Gilman). Jane tried to show the woman she saw in the wallpaper to John and Mary, but neither could see it. They believed Jane was crazy when she was only looking for freedom. The woman in the pattern represented Jane and all of the women who wanted to be more than what they were expected to be. They tried to escape the rules that kept them held down in society.
Another symbol, although not as prominent, yet holds great significance in the story is when Jane is walking over John’s body. This can be seen in the quote, “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” (Gilman)! By stepping over John, Jane is stepping over the male dominance in society. She’s stepping over everything that has held her back in life. This symbolizes that women are just as strong as men are in society. Furthermore, the literary element used in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is dialogue.
Even through simple conversations it is clear to see that the man still can overpower women. John displays this through a conversation with Jane in the quote, “Of course if you were in any danger, I could and would, but you really are better, dear, weather you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know” (Gilman). Even though Jane insisted she was not happy in their home, John knew otherwise. He took control of the situation to make sure it benefited him and not his wife. He disregarded her idea on leaving and even told her how she felt.
Jane of course did not feel the same way as John did and persisted on leaving, yet John still would not give in. Another example of John suppressing Jane is found in the quote, “It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so” (Gilman)? He used his profession to show off because he was a male physician and knew what was best. Even thought he heard his wife, he never fully listened to her. This pushed Jane to break free from her restrictions even more. John displayed superiority in each conversation, and never one considered Jane’s thoughts on the matter.
In addition, Gilman uses characterizations throughout the story to send out Jane’s message. Gilman gave Jane characteristics that set her apart from the average woman, such as an imaginative and creative mind. Jane loved to write, which can be seen in this quote, “I did write for a while in spite of them: but it does exhaust me a good deal- having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (Gilman). The opposition Jane refers to is John and Mary telling her not to write. Writing was not lady like thing to do, women had better things to be doing then writing, yet Jane wrote as much as she could without getting caught.
In the short story Gilman shows how Jane felt and what she was going through, “John does not know how much I really suffer” (Gilman). Jane is in a lot of pain, her husband is controlling and always thinks his right. He doesn’t listen to what Jane has to say and doesn’t pay attention to her emotions. John doesn’t even know what his wife is going through. John makes Jane feel like she’s not needed.
All in all, the short story uses feminist criticism through symbols, dialogue and character. In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” men dominated over woman in society. Gilman wanted to prove that women were equal to man; men were not the only ones that could have success or power. People can learn that being a woman does not automatically make someone a housewife with no power, and likewise being a man does not automatically make someone the man of the house. Everyone was created as equals, no one, man or woman should be treated any differently.