What might a Freudian view of "The Yellow Wallpaper" look like?

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The chief question with regard to a Freudian or really any sort of analysis would involve the meaning of the "yellow wallpaper" to the narrator. She seems to carry on a love-hate relationship with it. The paper is ugly, and it smells, and it torments her. She says she is...

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The chief question with regard to a Freudian or really any sort of analysis would involve the meaning of the "yellow wallpaper" to the narrator. She seems to carry on a love-hate relationship with it. The paper is ugly, and it smells, and it torments her. She says she is starting to love the room in spite of it, then changes her evaluation to because of it.

Obviously she's been trapped in the room by her husband who wants to keep her in a state of weakness and helplessness. He doesn't want her to work; all he wishes she does is rest and sleep and take the tonics he gives her. The wallpaper becomes her obsession under these conditions, and the turning-point comes when she sees a woman behind the paper. The woman is imprisoned there, behind bars which the narrator sees. Then she believes there are many women trapped there. When she observes that the first woman "gets out" the woman starts "creeping in the daytime," which is something most women do not do. Eventually the narrator and the woman in the wall seem to merge into one. Of the multitude of creeping women she eventually visualizes, she asks:

I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper, as I did.

A Freudian interpretation would probably indicate that the wallpaper is the narrator's id. This is the hidden driving force of desire behind the personality, hidden because it often is something unacceptable to society and seeks to defy societal rules and norms. It's a transgressor. The narrator is essentially imprisoned by her husband. Is she sick, either mentally or physically? We do not know. The id is in the unconscious and rebels against the narrator's being controlled and manipulated. Consciously she's in denial about her treatment by the husband. But her vision of the wallpaper has the ability to liberate her. At first she seems from her language to be the archetypal "compliant" wife, but the self-image she creates within the yellow wallpaper is one that seeks to overthrow and negate the control imposed upon her. And the fact that the one woman she sees becomes many women symbolizes that women in general are trapped, imprisoned, but now they are getting out, freeing themselves. At the end, the husband's fainting is symbolic of the narrator's finally having overcome his control over her.

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A traditionally Freudian view of Charlotte Perkins Gilman "The Yellow Wallpaper," would locate the narrator's anxieties and neuroses in her own childhood experiences, as well as in the repression of her Id, or her inner self, where her desires are located.

Thus, such a view could possibly interpret the narrator's post-partum depression as a result of unresolved anxieties about her relationship with her mother, or her resentment of her husband coupled with the fact that she is conflating him with her father, as part of a resurfaced Electra complex.

However, traditional Freudian analysis has often been criticized for ignoring the external, patriarchal forces that influence women's psyches. A more useful Freudian approach is one informed by Feminist criticism. Thus, through a revised version of Freudian analysis, we can say that the woman's anxieties are the result of a repression of both her deepest desires (Id) as well as her actual repression and confinement by her husband. Further, Freud said dreams often revealed symbols of the repressed Id: in this case the narrator's visions in the wallpaper could be said to substitute dreams. Thus, the wallpaper becomes a lexicon for the symbols of her unconscious desires, and her repression. One of these desires, would obviously be for freedom.

Finally, her Electra complex, or romantic feelings for her father as a child, which she now projects/transfers on her husband, calling him "Daddy," can also be viewed as her realization that power has passed from her husband to her father, leaving her with none. Certainly her husband infantilizes her, often referring to her as "girl" and carrying her ups the stairs. For the narrator, the father and the husband now become similar oppressive forces in her life. Cracking under the conflict of her social role as a wife and mother, and the call of her Id, the narrator finally gives in to "madness."

However, this madness itself is questionable. Is it really madness, or a symbol of her freedom? Gilman leaves things open-ended.

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Analyzing "The Yellow Wallpaper" from a Freudian perspective might cover several different areas, from husband-as-father to transference. However, the most important Freudian concept that applies to the story might be repression.

The narrator is literally repressed by her husband, who thinks of her almost as a child and keeps her from pursuing her passions. She then associates the wallpaper in her room with a fantasy designed to free her from the well-meaning isolation, and all-but represses the real world around her so she can inhabit her fantasy. In this sense, she is not repressing her memories or past, but repressing her total sensory input to become satisfied with a small space; since her husband limited her sensory input, she learns to live mentally inside an even more limited area, "repressing" all outside concepts. She seems to retain her mental faculties, as she is able to tell her husband where a key is, but applies unreasonable importance to the shape of a room and wallpaper.

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