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John Rine 22 July 2010

A Literary Analysis of the The Yellow Wallpaper The short story The Yellow Wallpaper evokes images from Stephen Kings disturbing horror classic The Shining because there are significant parallels between the two works--the protagonists and what happens to each as they endure a long period of isolation in a confined space. The Yellow Wallpaper", written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman after she had been treated for a psychological condition by S. Weir Mitchell who is actually mentioned in the story. This work, therefore, is somewhat autobiographical. The Yellow Wallpaper was published in 1892; The story is about an unnamed woman who sinks into complete insanity; insanity caused by a pre-existing mental condition (post-partum depression) coupled with, ironically, the treatment prescribed for it by her husband a physician, refrain from work (writing), suppression of imagination, and isolation. The author effectively uses vivid imagery and first-person narrative to illustrate that the treatment prescribed for the protagonist, is harmful physically, mentally, and emotionally. John, the narrators husband tries to keep her from performing any kind of work; not having a creative outlet contributes, in part, to her mental decline. She has been told not to perform any sort of work, the narrator observes that she is absolutely forbidden to work until she well again (Gilman 765). She, however, believes that writing or a similarly creative kind of work would be good for her, the narrator observes, Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good (Gilman 765). The narrator wants to write, but due to the heavy opposition she gets from her husband, it takes a toll not only on her health, but

also on her mental state, the writer writes, I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal--having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition (Gilman 765). She, however, begins writing again and secretly writes throughout the story, the narrator observes, There comes John, and I must put this away,--he hates to have me write a word (Gilman 766). The subject of the story, however, believes that if she were able to write, then her condition would improve, the narrator observes, I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me (Gilman 767). Besides hiding her writing activities from her husband, she must also hide them from her sisterin-law; the narrator observes There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing (Gilman 768). The subject of the story is told by her husband to repress her imagination but she cannot, and it gets out of control eventually ending in complete insanity. Her husband tells her to keep her imagination in check, the author writes, He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency (Gilman 767). By the end of the story, however, she is completely out of her mind; she imagines that the visible pattern on the wallpaper become bars and that the imagined back pattern is actually a woman, as the narrator observes, At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be (Gilman 771). John, the husband of the protagonist, isolates her from people from the outside. He wont allow her to have visitors until she gets well. Her isolation contributes to her mental breakdown. The subject of the story wants company, the writer writes, It is so discouraging not to have any

advice and companionship about my work (Gilman 767). Her husband, however, wont have it, at least until she gets well, the narrator observes, When I get really well, John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now (Gilman 767). By the end of the story, however, the narrator of the story has isolated herself from everyone, the writer writes, I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path (Gilman 774). Use of the first-person narrative causes the reader to see only the writers point of view. The use of the first-person narrative for the telling of this story in particular has a powerful effect. Since the narrator drifts into complete insanity over the course of the story, the reader may feel that he/she is also going insane. In fact this story was first interpreted as a being similar in nature to one or a number of Edgar Allen Poes works. The point of this story is that psychiatric treatment in the late 1800s was horrible. The treatments for post-partum depression in particular, refrain from work (writing), suppression of imagination, and isolation not only didnt work, but made the condition worse. In conclusion, the message that the author of The Yellow Wallpaper is trying to communicate to the reader is that the cure, the cure in this case being refrain from work (writing), suppression of imagination, and isolation, is worse than the disease, the disease in this case being depression.

Work Cited Gilman, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper. Literature for Composition: Reading and Writing Arguments about Essays, Stories, Poems and Plays, Corning Community College Edition. 8th ed. Ed. Sylvan, Barnet, et al. New York: Longman, 2007. 764-775