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What does the wallpaper represent in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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wyoflash22 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 22, 2013 at 5:27 AM via web

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What does the wallpaper represent in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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

Posted May 22, 2013 at 4:15 PM (Answer #1)

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The yellow wallpaper symbolizes the oppression that many women of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's generation felt under the institution of marriage. The historical context of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the 1800's under the universal concept of the femme convert , which is the doctrine that states how women are their husband's property and to be used at the husband's whim. Moreover, women at that time lacked just about every human and civil right conceivable, often suffering in silence from neglect, abandonment, depression, unfinished business, and personal wishes for a different kind of life. Unfortunately for them marriage was the only conduit through which a woman would find any role within society. It represented being "somebody" and being finally able to run a household. Yet, this comes at a price if it involves losing your individuality.

The narrator is a woman of Gilman's generation. Throughout the story she explains how, as a result of her isolation, she has remained fixated upon the wallpaper that covers the room where she has been forced to stay as a result of what is indicated to be post partum depression.

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?

Being that she is alone, already on a state of despair, and under-stimulated, she compensates in finding patterns within the paper. In a direct transference of her own pain, she begins to see women trapped within the paper much like she is trapped within a situation from which she cannot escape, given that the husband is the only one who could decide what to do with his wife. Hence, whether the cure works for her or not, as long as it is the decision of the husband, it will be accepted.

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