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The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that was first published in 1982. The narrator gives her story as an entry to her journal, which describes the position of women in society. This work of literature outlines gender roles in the Victoria Era in a societies dominated by men. This short story does not only depict oppression of women but also its effects on women.

Plot Summary

The short story begins with a description of the narrator’s medical condition. The woman is suffering from post-partum depression and her husband decides to move her to an old ancestral home to recuperate. The narrator believes art and her friends would help her recover but her husband is adamant that moving to a new place is the best option. At the new home, her husband (John) insists that she sleeps in a room that was once a nursery against her wish. The room has stripped yellow wallpaper, which at first is unattractive to her. The narrator begins to write in secret. She records her experiences in a diary, which John destroys when he discovers it. She becomes more fascinated by the yellow wallpaper and begins to describe it and other items in her room in her secret scripts.

John’s Sister Jennie takes care of the narrator’s baby but she is equally afraid of John’s cruelty. The narrator spends her days in her room or walks around the garden. She continues to grow weaker and watch the wallpaper and its patterns even at night. John will not allow her to visit her friends or relatives and soon she begins to fear both John and Jennie. The narrator is obsessed with the idea that the pattern on the wallpaper moves when a trapped woman behind it moves as she tries to escape. The narrator begins to creep around the house on the last day in the house when her attempts to free herself and the trapped woman fail. Her husband comes into the room and faints when he finds her creeping around the room.

The Theme of Oppression in the Story

One of the dominant themes in this story is oppression of women in society. The narrator is confined into a room for days against her will. John leaves her without any emotional support while she is suffering from depression. Even when John is at home, he dismisses her concerns about her deteriorating health and insists that her confinement is the best treatment. The narrator continually speaks of another trapped woman behind the wallpaper. Jennie is also under John’s rule and follows his directions blindly while his wife suffers. These characters bring out the oppression of women in male dominated societies and the need to break out of such oppression.