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coreyperry1023 | eNoter

Posted April 30, 2012 at 5:25 PM via web

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How does Perkins use the narrator to explore women’s rights in“The Yellow Wallpaper”?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 30, 2012 at 6:29 PM (Answer #1)

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The manner in which Perkins Gilman uses the narrator to explore women's right in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is by allowing the nameless woman to speak, using first person, on her own behalf about her needs and how they are not being met. 

So I take phosphates or phosphites - whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again.

I don't feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything, and I'm getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.

I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.

The style of narrative in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is quite casual. A woman, who has been taken with her sister by her husband to an isolated estate is asked not to do any kind of mentally challenging work. This supposedly so that she could get cured from what seems to be post-partum depression through "the rest cure".

I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.

He said [...]that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. "Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear," said he, "and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time." 

The rest cure is a former practice performed during Perkins Gilman's time, where the patient is not allowed any form of mental stimulation. This is counterproductive for someone who has mental issues, for they distraction above anything else. The narrator knows this. She also knows what is best for her. Unfortunately, she also knows that she has no say in the situation, even on her own behalf, because she is a woman. 

He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction. 

Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.

But what is one to do?

In the end, when the woman finally loser her mind and starts ripping the yellow wallpaper, she does it with the idea that she is liberating the "woman" that she feels is trapped behind it. She tells her husband John in a quite matter-of-fact tone, showing us that, perhaps, the woman is quite far gone mentally...or else, cured. We do not know for sure. However, she really feels that much under pressure; that she has clear needs that are being neglected, and that she has only one problem: being a woman in a society where she is hardly understood.

 

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