Until the late nineteenth century, women remained at home and performed light wifely roles, with no interest in the professional community. Women were denied schooling and exposure because they didn’t need it in the first place. Men, on the other hand, were the chief breadwinners and the primary decision-maker in the family. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” depicts how his surgeon partner persuaded her to go on forced bed rest so that she could lose touch with the outside world and concentrate on her healing. Her emphasis is put on the conditions spelled out for her to recuperate from mild mental depression after the birth of their first child, who died. She uses vivid description and the pathos appeal to show how the room they occupied which she spent most time alone, had been isolated, and the wallpaper, which was yellow, and how it appeared to mutate in the moonlight intriguing her into seeing a figure design.
In her article, “A Feminist Critique Of The Yellow Paper, D.Mellas views the narrator as trying to explore the role of women in the society, and she succeeds in using the pathos appeal to show what the men dominance. In an example, Jane the wife, feels trapped in the marriage because the husband at first does not believe her when she says she is sick. Additionally, the fact that she hides her writing from him and his sister are proof that she, representing the women should not write. The husband fears that by expressing herself will be a way of defiance. She carries on taking any medication prescribed because she is sick and does not have a voice. She uses quotes about the wallpaper as, “the color is repellent, almost revolting, a smoldering unclean yellow” appealing to the audience to see how the husband smolders her but she cannot leave the marriage. Also, ” up and down they crawl, unblinking eyes are everywhere” is an appeal to make people see how she feels as if the husband’s eyes are all over the place watching her every move (Gilman 107)
She appears to appeal to her audience especially the women that they should not let themselves get trapped by men and how the society runs and that they should take their rightful positions. A further appeal to show the husbands dominance is when he laughs at her and her thoughts, ” John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage”( Gilman 119). The narrator shows how he feels that his wife is inferior. To the extent of belittling her and calling her ” blessed little goose.”
Also, the narrator seems to appeal to her audience to feel the element of feminist criticism all through the story. For example, ” I did write for a while in spite of them… or else meet with the heavy opposition”( Gilman, 132). She wants them to view writing as a symbol that depicts the independence of the female, as an independent woman she should use the writing to express herself and fight for a way out of the marriage. Another aspect that she uses to portray the independence of the woman is the wallpaper, she quotes, “ I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wallpaper till I felt creepy, …the faint figure behind seemed to shake the patter as if she wanted to get out” (Lanser 420). The fact she is alone in the room for a long time, figuring the design of the wallpaper, she wants the audience to see the wallpaper as the woman and her thinking out of the design as a way that she slowly breaks the cords tying her to her inferior wifely roles.
The other aspect that she wants her audience to see is the idea of a male dominated medical profession that worked so hard to silence women. She uses examples to show that women were traditional to remain silent, passive and powerless. She uses examples to show that there was research that indicated that in the preceding centuries, there was a disease that was common among women, the hysteria that was a result of too much education. Another stereotypical example shows how women who went to school were over stimulating their brains thus driving themselves in hysteric conditions.
Women that were considered cured was required to be docile, silent and subdued, and had to submit to a physician. The role of the physician, however, was to undermine the desires of the patient as in the short story wallpaper, where the woman is misdiagnosed as a crazy because she wanted her voice to be heard. In reality, the physician had prescribed a bed cure as her treatment that was meant to tame her by keeping them imprisoned. Eventually, the woman’s decision to stop taking the medication and resuming work almost makes her insane. The narrator, however, appeals to the audience to see that breaking from a situation that does not fit you does not make someone crazy but prevents them from going insane. …” not intended to drive people crazy but to save them from being driven crazy” (Gilman, 113)
Gilman, C. P. (1913). Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper.The Forerunner, 4, 271.
Lanser, S. S. (1989).Feminist Criticism,” The Yellow Wallpaper,” and the Politics of Color in America.Feminist Studies, 15(3), 415-441.