Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

The Controversy Behind The Yellow Wallpaper English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2054 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Every reader is left wondering what was in Perkins Gilman’s mind when he wrote the controversial ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. Many arguments have been raised over suitability of this literary work concerning historical, sociological, spiritual and philosophical context in which it was done. This paper will therefore intend to explore the relevance of this fictional story written by Charlotte Gilman in the last decade of 19th century. The story concentrated on an apparent description of a woman living within male dominated setting in which gender-stereotyping is evident. This is reflected by the kind of expectations Gilman’s husband has on her. Despite the narrator giving a vivid picture of her state of affairs and interaction with the husband, we are left with more questions than answers as to whether this work befits its time in all aspects. Common features describing a society are now going to be examined so as to determine this imaginary work’s suitability.


The author has been able to bring out clearly a conception of individual discrimination and how this act interferes with human psyche. Historically, this short story was developed back in the year 1892 when there was massive gender discrepancy as depicted in Gilman’s timely work on The Yellow Wallpaper. It is evident that female voice in the story was equally suppressed as it was happening in American society by then. Critical examination of words and actions of narrator’s husband reveals a clear domineering tone. Throughout the story he speaks with ultimate authority not only because of his professional prowess as a physician but also a mere virtue of being a husband. Husband’s demeaning attitude is shown when he state, “There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?” (673). John’s statement does not only signify the looming separation with the wife but also the plain fact that those historical times were not favorable for women.


The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story written wit close reference to individuals who shaped up America’s identity. The writing is a true reflection of challenges of being a woman in an era when female folks were not expected to have thoughts and personalities independent from male approval. Such political setting had a precise definition of women’s role. They were limited to being child bearers, family caretakers, and good looking creature existing to be seen only. The definition, thought not being formal, was articulate in people’s mind and manifested in men’s actions and words. Identity of women was then supposed to be determined by men. John’s description of his wife is a clear indication of this. It appeared final and actual definition. They were further classified as beings that are irrational and too emotional. This is preposition which was further reflected in the manner in which women were treated politically. The story is indeed a true reflection of women’s role in American politics in the late 19th century. It is therefore justifiable to argue that this work befits the political era in which it was written. It appears then that Gilman’s motivation behind this controversial short story was women’s suffrage in the political arena of America. Consequently it served to raise and unearth wrongs against women.


The period in which The Yellow Wallpaper was written was marked by reconstruction of America after devastating civil war. Among the many features of reconstruction, growth and development was reawakening of how women were regarded in the society. Based in prior knowledge postulated by Charles Darwin that women are indeed more hardy than men. This theory went against the gradient of conventional knowledge and argued that women’s existence was more necessary than the ‘weak’ male fraternity. Psychological view that women are actually strong puts them in a better position of being both professionals and mothers. Other reasoning by Darwin that motherhood was vital to women and that it has to maintain supreme precedence in woman’s life. This information in the United States setting must have triggered the intervention of Gilman in proving to the world that a lot of injustice was being done to women despite being endowed naturally.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

In the United States, a better part of 1800 was characterized by natural law principle of femme convert. Under such laws, wives were regarded as properties belonging to their husbands and thus there was no direct of women over their children, earnings or belongings. Some statute in several states outlawed women getting into business without their husband’s approval while some others gave husbands unilateral role of determining where a family could live. Other demeaning state laws prescribed that adultery could not be recognized as a reason to warrant divorce if it was committed by the husband. Women could not be allowed to vote as well. Increased consciousness about these oppressions led to spirited fight to claim equal rights. Gilman chose to take literary option by writing The Yellow Wallpaper. If relevance was to be ranked then sociological relevance of Gilman’s work is the most suiting motivation. It came at the time when American society was getting reawakened by liberalization and recognition of females as equal human beings. Through her work she managed to successfully paint the picture of typical woman in 19th Century America.

Being a great feminist she was in late 19th century, Gilman claimed that treatment of women as second class human beings and more precisely the absolute reliance on men economically was not because of natural inferiority but rather culturally motivated mindsets. Through The Yellow Wallpaper, which was in its respect part of women’s response to such oppressions, Gilman succeeded in amplifying these beliefs. In 1926 she clearly put out that her work was indeed targeting women liberalization from flaws of cultural ties as well as ruthless men like John, a character representing narrator’s husband in the short story.

Mental breakdown of the narrator is pretty understandable. She is not able to become the woman she is since the conditions made by society were not favorable. The writer successfully indicates to readers that narrator identity is exactly what John, who is the husband, wants it to be. Her independence in thought and glamour of her thoughts are brushed aside.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Gilman’s story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ which is about mental breakdown of a woman as a result of too many expectations from society was very influential in shaping America’s national identity. The main character who is woman represented women of her time, while the wallpaper represented the position played by women in the society. There were predetermined social roles to be played by women in the society. Any diversion from these roles meant a grave mistake in the system. Throughout the story, Jane was revealed as the person who has lost her identity. Gilman believed so much that national identity was dependent so much on individualism. For this to be possible, women need to have freedom both mentally and physically without constraints by the society.


Just like any other work of art which is supposed to reflect society’s settings, Gilman writing represented true behavior of society of her time. Throughout the writing, the wife who is a narrator keeps on stating her intentions but cannot do anything about them because her husband is an obstacle. He constantly asks sarcastically what a person is intended to do. It is painting a picture of women who have no power and authority of doing what they know to be best for them. The female fraternity has been made to believe that men are somewhere higher than them in everything. As a result, this narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper talks about her husband and brother as people “of high standing”. This description of the two men depicts how men were highly ranked. Conservative Christian setting in which this story was written is fairly seen in several occurrences along the narration. Christian teachings which could have influenced John’s behavior demand that the wife should submit to the husband in everything. It is logic enough to think that the spiritual context in which the writer was doing his work is that of submission. This is the era marked by hard line philosophies of spiritualism in which any diversion from teachings could be detrimental. For fear of harsh reprimand the narrator depicts herself as a helpless member of society. The scenario which could have been seen as submission turned out to be source of dissatisfaction and inhumane oppression whose position in the current world is non-existent. When the woman tried to pour her hearth out to a person supposed to be the closest friend, John who is the husband dismissed her and prescribed rest as her only need. Although this extreme behavior does not reflect actual teachings of Christianity, the element of blind submission could have lead to oppression witnessed in the story. This is a scenario which to some extent was an indication of what most women of narrator’s were going through. Creative use of imagery is climaxed by removal of wall paper which represented elimination of feminism.


Philosophical critique of the story pinpoints some logic errors. Veracity of narrator’s early statements is quite doubtful. There is doubt as to whether all other characters described really existed reflecting the whole or most parts of the story as a work of mislead mind. The reader is puzzled with what is true and what is not. Uncertainties surrounding the story show that veracity of themes carried in the entire work piece are doubtful. This is a true reflection of what deep thinkers of writer’s age could think about relevance of this story. The faint description of the room in which she was held paints her ideology as not such serious matter. Skeptical analysis reveals a connection between doubtful theme of oppression in the story and trasitionary period of women empowerment. A grey area is painted along relevance of this story to the context in which it was written. Philosophical interpretation of The Yellow Wallpaper show reasonable correlation between doubt in some narrator’s statements and the fact that women were really oppressed by their husbands. The woman who is a narrator put herself in prison of yellow wallpaper a situation showing that women of her era could have been really liberal but limited in their mind sets.

The main focus of this fascinating story is the evolution of self consciousness towards an obvious kind of madness and ultimate condition of complete psychosis.

The central focus of this intriguing story is the development of an individual consciousness towards an apparent form of insanity and eventually into a state of total psychosis. The story begins as we encounter the thoughts and feelings of the main character; a woman who is seemingly ill and possibly suffering from postpartum depression. Her husband rents a large rambling country house and insists that she do nothing but rest. She is obviously suffering from a form of depression but her husband does not take this seriously and does not investigate or seemed cornered with the root causes of her condition. She is treated in a condescending but kindly way by the husband. However, the important aspect of their relationship is that the husband sees her not as an individual in her own right but more as a child who is incapable of looking after herself. It becomes clear as the story develops that the women or narrator of the story is stripped of her sense of self. She seems to have no ability to fulfill her role as a women and mother and her child is kept from her. However, the central aspect of the story is the way that the woman sees images and animations in the wallpaper of the room in which she is confined.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: