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Character Analysis of the Yellow Wallpaper

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Autor:   •  April 19, 2017  •  Term Paper  •  1,887 Words (8 Pages)  •  200 Views

Page 1 of 8

Beth Horn

Word Count: 1845

English 301

Professor Royer

Character Analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper

The short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the prominent turn of the century feminist. While this story doesn’t follow the same pattern of her other works, Gilman wrote this story loosely based on her own experiences. “The Yellow Wallpaper”, is a story about a woman who is dealing with depression after having a baby. In today’s society it would be referred to as post-partum depression and treated appropriately, but in 1892 it was simply thought of as the woman having temporary nervous depression and nothing a little rest and isolation couldn’t fix.

During the story we are introduced to Jane, whose husband has decided that in order to cure his wife of this depression he is going to rent a summer house and keep her lock inside to rest and not work or lift a thing. It becomes increasingly evident that isolation was the last thing that Jane needed.  While Jane becomes a prisoner of the house, her character also begins to transform from timid and submissive housewife to master of her own free will. This change occurs due to her environment, mental state and her relationship with her husband while trapped in the house.

Jane is sick, she knows it and she feels it, but nobody else believes her or is taking her seriously. Her husband, John, who is a respected physician says that she is just temporarily depressed, her brother, also a physician, agrees with him, and who is going to argue with your own husband and brother, “…what is one to do?”.(380) Jane begins this story as the stereotypical late Victorian era housewife and mother, she believes that what her husband tells her must be true and that her only course of action is to follow his instructions or lead. She is submissive to him externally, even if at times on the inside she rebels, she’s cautious that she doesn’t do anything that could be perceived as defiant. Jane talks about how she feels upset with John more these days and blames it on the nervous condition, but he forbids her to have those feelings towards him. “But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself – before him, at least, and that makes me very tired”. (381) Jane makes a point to mention that she hides her feelings from her husband in order to be a proper wife to him. This little bit of defiance of being herself when alone is where we start to see a few minor changes to Janes character. She might be timid and submissive, but she certainly doesn’t want to be, it’s a struggle that she will continue to face throughout the story.

When Jane moves into the vacation house with her husband she immediately doesn’t like it, she feels that something is off and it might even be haunted. Her husband chooses a bedroom at the top of the house for them that is large with windows all around. Jane dislikes this room too, it used to be a nursery and has barred windows, rings on the walls and a horrible yellow wallpaper that is torn in patches all around the room. It’s the ugliest room she has ever seen and does nothing to ease her depression. “I have been here two weeks and haven’t felt like writing before, since that first day. I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength”. (381) Janes mental state is very depressed and she knows it, and the isolation that her husband has put her in is not helping. She still feels that her husband knows best and she should feel more grateful for him taking care of her, but her resentment begins to build. “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him”. (382) This is a strong line in the story, Jane is clearly suffering but recognizes that her husband thinks it’s all a little silly and she has no reason to feel ill.

While Jane continues to stew in the yellow wallpapered room she begins to notice and detest the wallpaper more and more. “This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare are you upside down”. (383) Jane beings to obsess over this particular spot in the pattern, she becomes angry with it and feels the eyes watching here wherever she walks in the room. The more Jane obsesses over the wallpaper the more her relationship with John becomes strained and the resentment continues to build. She continually asks John to let her leave the house and go visit family, or just go home early, but he insists that she is too ill and leaving the house will only make her sicker.  So Jane continues to obsess over the figure she sees in the wallpaper, now believing that the woman in the wallpaper is moving! “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out”. (385) This is a significant mental status change in Jane, she has now given a female identity to the figure in the wallpaper and is projecting her current situation onto the figure. Jane feels trapped in this room and wants out, and now she sees a woman in the wallpaper who is also trapped and wants out.

As Jane spends more time watching the wallpaper her distrust and paranoia of John builds, “The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John. He seems very queer sometimes... I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper!” (387) Jane becomes territorial over the woman in the wallpaper and wants to be the one to find out her secret. She begins staying up all night getting excited to watch the wall and see what happens. She even starts eating more food and to her husband looks like she is getting better. However Jane dismisses his praises and wants to spend as much time as she can watching the woman in the paper. Jane has stopped sleeping at night because she can watch the woman move around at night better and is now convinced that the woman is shaking the wallpaper trying to climb out, “And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern – it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads”. (388) Jane continues to project and identify with the woman, she feels trapped but wants to break free, so she wants this woman to succeed and break free, it becomes her passion to find out if the woman can break out of the paper.


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