How in gynesis approach applied in the story?Using the gynesis approach to literary analyisis, what is the meaning of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

French feminists who were post structuralists first started using the gynesis approach to literary criticism. Through this approach we can see new meaning of the literary piece in terms of the gender roles and how they are an essential element to the meaning of the story. In particular, Gilman's work is one of the first 19th century pieces that addressed so directly women's relationship with their husbands.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" shows women's lives in 19th century American society influenced by the Victorian Age. Victorians expected women to behave demurely and stay in the domestic arena. The protagonist in the story is forced into bed rest by her spouse and brother. But she wants to read & write. Secretly, she does write in her journal.  Her husband,John, addresses her as if she is a child, or "little girl" and "blessed little goose."

Using the gynesis approach it is possible to see that the protagonist reacted in the only way possible to her. She was trapped in her circumstances, as the yellow wallpaper suggests, trapped by all the aspects of society that held her in place, for example, the gender roles, the language, her speech (what she was permitted to say or not to say), the doctor's recommendation and her husband and brother's instructions etc. In her prescribed situation in history, there was nowhere else for her to go except into her own mind. Therefore, instead of interpreting the woman's efforts as a failed protagonist because she went mad or insane; it is possible to see her reaction as a success. The fact that she could name what was happening to her, meant that she could identify herself. This is a success.


Jardine, Alice. Gynesis: Configurations of Women and Modernity 1985.

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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