British Literature – Essay
What does Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story « The Yellow Wallpaper » suggest about middle-class women’s place and roles in this society?
Though « The Yellow Wallpaper » is a fiction which aims at denouncing the
« resting cure” used for insane people by the physician of the Victorian era, we can find
in this short story lots of characters who symbolise the Victorian values, especially the
roles and places that women had to respect in the Victorian society. Indeed, through
her fictional character who writes in her secret diary, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
invites the reader with a privileged access into the domestic sphere of an insane young
middle-class woman with a lot of irony and symbols to denounce more effectively the
subordination of women in marriage and the rigid distinctions between the gender
functions of the 19th century.
At first, the narrator focuses her attention on the methods used by her husband
John to make her feel better. The accumulation of things she must do or take (“So I take
tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise”) reveals the very patronizing voice of her
husband, and the confusion over « phosphates or phosphites » shows that she is not
really interested in this medical establishment and that she does not agree with « their
ideas », so John’s and her family’s. Indeed she thinks she would need the exact opposite,
activity and stimulation but she does not say it to anyone, and actually she cannot say it
to anyone : no one would believe her, even not her husband who “does not believe” she’s
“sick”, which once again demonstrates that people did not attach importance to women’s
points of view in the Victorian society, because their roles were...